Justin Jefferson and Joshua Dobbs were among the Vikings teammates who approached receiver Jordan Addison at his locker Monday night as the rookie sat under a towel still wearing his pads 30 minutes after a 12-10 loss to the Bears.
They appeared to assure the 21-year-old Addison to keep his head up after a disastrous night for the offense. Addison had a team-high 10 targets, but the second-quarter pass he volleyed into an interception stuck with him the most. Head coach Kevin O'Connell said Addison needed to get his head and eyes around. He also alluded to Dobbs rushing the pass.
"The ball kind of got up on me fast as soon as I turned out of the break," Addison told the Star Tribune on Monday night. "But I just got to make that catch. I got to make that catch."
Addison, who finished with six catches for 39 yards, wished he could've made a couple plays to helped a struggling Dobbs, who had four interceptions.
But Addison insisted he caught Dobbs' first pass — a bomb down the middle of the field that was ruled incomplete. The broadcast replay didn't appear to show the ball touching the ground, but there might not have been conclusive evidence to overturn the call either. Addison said he tried to encourage a coach's challenge that didn't come.
"That was a catch," Addison said. "The ball never touched the ground. I tried to tell them, but it was already too late, we lined up."
Teammates are not worried about Addison's long-term outlook. The first-round pick has hit a lull in an otherwise stellar campaign as he has garnered more attention in Jefferson's absence; Addison's 686 receiving yards rank third among all NFL rookies. But Addison, who has seven TD catches, wasn't giving himself a pass.
"Couple weeks ago I'd probably tell you it's going good," he said. "But now I feel like I ain't doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not really proud of how I've been playing these last stretch, so got to pick it up."
Tight end T.J. Hockenson said the upcoming bye week will be big for rookies like Addison, who isn't accustomed to playing more than about 12 games in a college season.
"He's going be a really good wide receiver in this league, and he just needs to continue with that belief and understand things happen throughout the season," Hockenson said. "There's ebbs and flows."
Receiver Brandon Powell had the Vikings' best play Monday night, a 28-yard leaping grab over Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon, flashing the potential of a talented skill group that again struggled to produce against the Bears. Dobbs threw for just 185 yards on Monday night; Kirk Cousins threw for only 181 yards in the Oct. 15 win in Chicago, the Vikings' first game after Jefferson went out with a hamstring injury.
Powell wasn't giving the Bears credit for slowing the Vikings' sixth-ranked passing attack, which expects to get Jefferson back Dec. 10 against the Raiders.
"Man, the Chicago Bears [defensive backs] is trash," Powell said. "That's just simple. They were trash. We just hurt ourselves, that's all."
Receiver K.J. Osborn was asked if Dobbs' overall inexperience with the Vikings offense and receivers is catching up with the team.
"I don't know," Osborn said. "Obviously, he's in a tough position. He still just got here, still trying to get the [familiarity] of our offense."
Dobbs could've thrown a better deep ball to Addison in the fourth quarter, when the 5-foot-11 receiver caught the pass but landed out of bounds. Addison put that on himself. Four plays later, Dobbs threw a 17-yard touchdown to Hockenson.
"I feel like I got to stay in bounds, get my feet down," Addison said. "I knew I was close, but I'm running vertical and the ball was kind of taking me back out [of bounds]. I just got to get my feet down there."