Thielen limited in return; Jefferson breaks Beckham Jr.’s record

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
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·4 min read
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  • Justin Jefferson
    Justin Jefferson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Adam Thielen
    Adam Thielen
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Kirk Cousins
    Kirk Cousins
    American football quarterback

Receiver Adam Thielen still appeared burdened by his sprained left ankle while running through his pregame warmups before the Vikings' 30-23 loss to the Rams on Sunday. And while Thielen suited up and played, catching three passes for 40 yards, he ultimately finished the game on the sideline after aggravating the injury.

"He was hurting," receiver Justin Jefferson said. "I just know how much he wants to be out there, how much he wants to play with the guys and play a big role in this offense."

Thielen was tackled low by Rams safety Taylor Rapp in the second quarter and remained face down on the turf for a few seconds before Vikings trainers got to him. He hobbled off and did not return until after halftime, when he caught a 6-yard pass to end his afternoon.

He's just three weeks removed from his left foot being pinned under Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs, causing a high ankle sprain that kept him out of practice until last week. Thielen was limited throughout practices and during his attempted return.

"He's still coaching us," Jefferson said. "He's still trying to keep our energy up, still being that leader on the team."

Fullback C.J. Ham played despite being listed questionable because of a hamstring injury. The Rams lost linebacker Ernest Jones (ankle), running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (knee) and center Brian Allen (knee) to injuries. Los Angeles was already without left tackle Andrew Whitworth on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

'It's going to be difficult'

Backup quarterback Sean Mannion was symptomatic on Sunday morning, which triggered the COVID-19 test that turned up a positive case and rookie Kellen Mond's first game as the Vikings backup. Mannion and tackle Rashod Hill tested positive before kickoff and joined running back Dalvin Cook on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Andre Patterson also missed the game because of a positive test.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins pointed to fewer players testing amid updated league protocols, which require vaccinated players like Mannion to only test if symptomatic or randomly chosen, but Cousins tests daily, in accordance with league rules, because he's unvaccinated.

"You just have to follow the protocols, be disciplined and there's a lot of people not testing," Cousins said. "So it's in our building. It's going to be in our building. It's going to spread. We've just got to be disciplined to keep our distance and make sure that, to the best of our ability, we don't get it. But it's going to be difficult."

Not making them pay

The Vikings defense intercepted Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford three times in a span of four drives, a flurry that didn't amount to much on the scoreboard. The Vikings offense fizzled out, scoring just 10 points off those three takeaways, including a six-play, 11-yard drive that led to a punt in the third quarter. The Vikings have scored just 65 points off 25 opponent turnovers this season, including turnovers on downs, or less than a field goal per drive.

"That's something I don't know we did well enough today, and much of this season, we haven't been able to create points off turnovers," Cousins said.

Jefferson's two-year pace an NFL record

Jefferson's 9-yard catch in the third quarter gave him 23 yards for the game, enough to break Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s NFL record for most receiving yardage in a player's first two seasons. Jefferson now has 2,851 yards with two games left this year, surpassing Beckham's 2,755 through the 2014-2015 seasons. Jefferson nodded to his fellow LSU product before the game with a warmup shirt featuring Beckham.

"Breaking his record with him in the building, it was no other perfect situation for me," Jefferson said. "But a dub would definitely be better with that record."

By the numbers

3: Interceptions by Anthony Barr this year, including two Sunday. He had two in his previous seven seasons.

0: Sacks by the Vikings, the first time this season they did not have multiple sacks after tying the 1974 Raiders' NFL record with multiple sacks in each of their first 14 games.

14: Games, out of 15, that the Rams' Cooper Kupp has had more than 90 receiving yards this season. He had 109 on 10 catches Sunday.

78: Points allowed by the Vikings this season in the final two minutes of the first half.

20: Kirk Cousins 300-yard passing games for Kirk Cousins with the Vikings, setting a team record. Tommy Krammer and Daunte Culpepper had 19.

4: Cousins interceptions in the past three games. He had three in the first 12 games of the season.

3.2: Alexander Mattison's yards per carry starting in place for Cook on Sunday.

45-0: Rams coach Sean McVay's career record when his team is leading at halftime.

16-19: Mike Zimmer's record in December as Vikings coach.

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