FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick were caught on camera midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game in a heated exchange of words in the midst of New England’s electing to challenge a play.
Officials initially ruled a first down in favor of Minnesota at the Vikings’ 39-yard line after Latavius Murray gained 1 yard on fourth-and-inches with 9:02 to play in the game. At the end of the play, Patriots defensive back Patrick Chung fell to the ground with an apparent injury.
Thielen later said he thought it was “interesting timing” for Chung to go down and was upset that the Patriots had extra time to decide whether to throw the challenge flag.
“It was a close play that could have been reviewed,” Thielen said after Minnesota’s 24-10 loss. “So for me, I just lost my emotions.”
Field mics picked up the Vikings receiver yelling “that’s bull crap” in the direction of the Patriots bench after Belichick pulled the challenge flag out of his sock and threw it onto the field. During the exchange, Belichick appeared to tell Thielen to “shut the f— up.” An official then escorted Thielen back to the Vikings’ huddle.
Thielen spoke about the incident postgame and said he wasn’t upset with Belichick so much as with how the situation played out.
“I just thought the play was cheap,” Thielen said. “I wasn’t directing it toward him. I just thought the play was cheap, but like I said, I let the emotions get the best of me because it’s a smart football play if you are in that situation. Why not? It’s not cheating because there’s no rule against it from a guy going down. I don’t know if he was hurt or not. He might have been hurt. That’s fine. It is what it is. But like I said, just interesting timing for a guy to go down when it’s a close play.”
The Patriots ended up losing the challenge. Belichick was 0-for-2 on challenges against the Vikings.
Thielen said he and Belichick did not speak postgame, but he was not upset when he learned what Belichick appeared to say in his direction during their exchange.
Thielen ‘thought the play was cheap’ before Belichick exchange
Adam Thielen says it was “interesting timing” for Patrick Chung to go down with an injury before Bill Belichick threw a challenge flag.
“No offense taken,” Thielen said. “It’s football. There’s emotions. He can think what he wants to think about me. It doesn’t really change how I’m going to go play the game. He can hate me all he wants. I’m still going to be the same person I am. I’m going to try to go out and do my best, and I’m going to try and compete every play.”
Belichick was asked about the exchange following the Patriots’ win and whether what took place could be considered two competitors “exchanging holiday greetings.”
“Yeah, pretty much,” Belichick said with a slight smile.
Chung did not go into detail about his role in what sparked the incident. Asked about Thielen’s comments regarding the coincidental timing of his injury, Chung said the receiver “can think what he wants to think.”
Other Patriots players took pride in seeing their coach that fired up during a game.
“It takes a lot for Bill Belichick to say something to you,” safety Duron Harmon said. “It just lets you know how passionate he is. Not many people see that emotion from him a lot, but it lets everyone know how passionate he is, not only for the game but for his players. We appreciate it and only get to see that every once in a while.”