PHILADELPHIA – Vikings Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen played in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game with a lower back injury that caused him a significant amount of pain, a source told the Star Tribune.
Thielen, one of eight Vikings players to play more than 1,000 snaps in the regular season, gutted through a fractured back, according to the NFL Network, an injury the receiver downplayed after the 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m just playing football, I don’t think about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to help this team win games. Obviously, I didn’t do enough tonight.”
Thielen caught three of his nine targets for 28 yards while playing through the injury suffered in last week’s victory over New Orleans.
From the start, the Eagles defense set a physical tone on Thielen. Safety Malcolm Jenkins gave him a late shove to the ground after the first play, a run by Latavius Murray. Thielen took umbrage after the whistle multiple times to apparent verbal barbs and cheap shots from defenders. He wasn’t alone; Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell needed to be separated from Eagles players by teammates and officials during the meltdown.
“That’s playoff football,” Thielen said. “That’s just what’s going to happen. You’ve got to be the guy who makes those plays to stop that. If you’re not making plays and they’re doing things to stop you, then they’ve got more ammunition. That’s really the only thing you can do is make plays, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Right tackle Rashod Hill was wary of the Eagles’ plan to beat him with speed, but he was unable to stop them on a couple of key plays. Defensive end Chris Long got the edge on Hill, hitting Case Keenum’s chest when he uncorked the interception returned 50 yards by Patrick Robinson for a Philadelphia touchdown in the first quarter.
“This is a real learning experience for me,” Hill said. “This one hurts.”
Keenum was sacked only once, but he got hit eight times. The lone sack came was a big one, as it came in the red zone with the Vikings trailing 14-7. The Vikings shifted protection toward Hill, forcing tight end David Morgan to make a tough, designed block on the left side that he missed. Defensive end Derek Barnett forced a fumble when he sped past Morgan and got to Keenum. Philadelphia recovered, and the Vikings never did.
End of the line for Berger?
Joe Berger said he thinks Sunday’s loss was his last NFL game, but the offensive lineman wants more time to decide. Berger, a 13-year NFL veteran with 145 games played, is set to become a free agent in March. He should attract attention around the league, if not in Minnesota, after being an underrated cog for the Vikings.
“I think in this moment it’s too hard to decide that,” said Berger, 35. “In my mind, yes, but I need to get back and relax and let the season sink in. See what there is for offers in the first place. If nobody wants me, it makes the decision easy.”
Elflein, Sendejo injured
Center Pat Elflein was in a walking boot on his left ankle and needed crutches to move around after he was knocked from the loss in the second half. Elfein suffered an ankle injury, the exact nature of which is unknown.
Eagles fans began mocking the Vikings’ “Skol clap” celebration while Elflein was down on the field, saying “Foles!” instead of “Skol!”
Safety Andrew Sendejo suffered a calf injury in the first half and was replaced by Anthony Harris after halftime. Sendejo already was questionable to play because of to a concussion he suffered against the Saints.
Carter honorary captain
Former Vikings and Eagles wide receiver Cris Carter served as the Vikings’ honorary captain for the pregame coin toss. Carter wore his gold Hall of Fame jacket to midfield in Philadelphia, where he was cut during the 1990 preseason.