Over the past three games, the Vikings rank second in the NFL in total yards with 1,323, trailing only the Cowboys, and their time of possession is No. 1 in the league. Even with that success on offense they have only a 1-2 record to show for it, with two one-point defeats.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen said this club has the right group to turn this season around.
“We have great leadership here in this building, whether it be as coaches or players. We have a lot of guys that just want to go to work, figure it out, keep getting better and give us opportunities to win,” Thielen said. “I think when you’re in a locker room like that it gives you the opportunity to fight through some tough times and turn it around.”
Thielen said having skill players such as receiver Justin Jefferson, running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. working with quarterback Kirk Cousins makes for a really dynamic collection of talent.
“It’s great. I think it’s something that you have to have in this league. You have to have guys at every position that can make plays, and you have to be able to spread the ball around,” Thielen said. “You have to have a running game to be able to do it, both the pass and the run. I’m very thankful to be a part of that group.
“Another thing, too, is just the attitudes, the mind-sets, the personalities of that group. You know it’s such a fun group to go to work with, even when we have been losing. Sometimes it can get tough when you’re losing, but when you’re around guys that you really enjoy being around and are good people, good leaders, it just makes it more enjoyable and it gives you a chance to turn it around and start winning ballgames.”
Making the playoffs after a 1-4 start undoubtedly will be a challenge, but there’s no doubt this offense has enough weapons to go on a big winning streak starting Sunday against the Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings have faced the third-toughest schedule in the NFL so far this season, as their five opponents are a combined 17-6. But Thielen said the teams they have lost to or how they have lost does not matter.
“It doesn’t really have to do with anything now, we’re past it and we’re playing other teams,” he said. “Obviously it makes maybe down the line when you look back at the season you can say, ‘Well, we played some tough teams early.’ But we have to go win games and we have to win games against teams that have bad records and good records. Everybody is good in this league and you have to bring it each Sunday.”
Fun working with Jefferson
Thielen was an undrafted free agent from a Division II school who turned himself into a star. Jefferson is a first-round pick from a national champion who is turning heads only five games into his pro career.
“I don’t know if there’s many similarities [to the start of our careers],” Thielen said. “I sat on the bench for my whole first year and he is making plays. But I will say his mentality, his personality, the way that he attacks the day and loves the game of football, we’re very similar.”
Jefferson has 19 catches in five games. Thielen hit 20 career catches by the end of 2015, his third NFL season.
“It has been very fun, honestly it has been great to get to know him,” Thielen said. “Then when you see a guy that works as hard as he does and has so much fun doing it, it’s fun to see guys like that have success and he is doing a great job for us. He’s going to be a big part of us having success moving forward.”
Thielen had only six catches for 60 yards combined over Weeks 2 and 3, but he and Cousins are in a great rhythm lately. Over his past two games, Thielen has 17 receptions for 194 yards and three scores.
He said it can take time to build your connection with the quarterback each season, even though this is their third season together.
“That’s one thing that seems to go unnoticed a lot and people don’t really understand, is how long it takes to get on the same page with a quarterback — for him to understand where you’re going to be and certain looks and vice versa,” Thielen said. “I think the more repetitions you have, especially with a guy like him that it means a lot to him, who works as hard as he does, I think the more reps you have, the better it is. I think it’s starting to show on the field.”
Thielen has a new position coach in Andrew Janocko, who had been with the team in other roles for five years and replaced Drew Petzing, who went with Kevin Stefanski to Cleveland. Janocko is the fourth Vikings receivers coach over the past five seasons. Thielen said that relationship is going great, despite having a virtual offseason.
“He is a guy who busts his tail to prepare us to put us in positions to be successful and you know he takes his job very seriously,” Thielen said. “You feel very fortunate when you have a guy that just takes it serious and wants you to be great individually and as a group and puts in the time and the effort and does a lot of extra things that he doesn’t have to do. We’re in a good spot with him as a coach and a leader of our room.”
• Coach P.J. Fleck and the Gophers will have a huge challenge opening the season with Michigan at TCF Bank Stadium next week, but Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Gophers as 2½-point favorites.
• Avante Dickerson of Omaha Westside is the top-ranked Gophers football recruit in the Class of 2021 and he showed why on Oct. 9 when he rushed for 212 yards on 11 carries, had two receptions for 63 yards and scored five touchdowns —including one on defense via a fumble recovery — in a 52-3 victory over Norfolk.
• Former Eden Prairie linebacker Jermaine Johnson was expected to play for No. 3 Georgia against No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night, according to Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart. Johnson had been dealing with injuries after recording two tackles in the season opener. Last year Johnson played in 14 games and posted 2½ sacks.
• Minnesota prep hoops will be on a big national stage when Gonzaga faces Baylor in Indianapolis on Dec. 5 in a game that will be the first CBS college basketball broadcast of the season. Minnehaha Academy’s Jalen Suggs is a freshman for Gonzaga, and Park Center’s Dain Dainja is a freshman for Baylor.
• Pro Football Focus said Kirk Cousins has posted a passing grade of 66.5 through the first three quarters this season, but the Vikings quarterback has a much better mark of 87.1 in the fourth quarter.
• PFF also has Detroit’s Frank Ragnow (Chanhassen) as the No. 6 center in the NFL and Washington’s Chase Roullier (Burnsville) as the No. 17 center.
• It’s possible there could be five former Gophers playing Major League Baseball next season: pitchers Max Meyer with the Marlins, Brett Schulze with the Phillies, Jake Stevenson with the Reds and D.J. Snelten with the Rays, and shortstop Terrin Vavra with the Orioles.