Three offensive series into the first quarter Sunday, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen stood on the visitor’s sideline at Arrowhead Stadium, removed his helmet and shook his head “no.” Minnesota would have to get by against the Kansas City Chiefs without Thielen because of a recurrence of a sore right hamstring.
Aside from getting one pass thrown his way on Minnesota’s first drive, Thielen wasn’t a factor in the Vikings’ 26-23 loss. The Vikings did not update Thielen’s medical condition after the game, and Thielen was not available for comment. He was injured two weeks ago against the Lions and did not play against Washington on a short week Oct. 24, his first career missed game due to injury.
Taking many of Thielen’s snaps, Laquon Treadwell finished with three catches and five targets for a career-high 58 yards. Bisi Johnson had one catch, scoring on a 4-yard pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to cap a first-quarter drive keyed by Treadwell’s 26-yard reception.
“Laquon did a great job,” Cousins said. “He caught two big third downs. He caught a big ball in the two-minute drive at the end of the half that got us down there. It was great to get him involved, and hopefully we can continue to really rely on him going forward.”
Treadwell, who had a promising start to his Vikings career after being picked 23rd overall in the 2016 draft, was released in September for roster space. He is trying to make the most of a second chance — not that he calls it that.
“I’m not taking it like a second chance — it’s my only chance,” Treadwell said. “You’ve got to make the most of that chance. I’ve got a saying: Prepare like you’re the worst player in the league but believe like you’re the best. I’m just going to prepare for whenever my name is called and then, when it is, make the play.”
The Chiefs limited Minnesota’s top receiver, Stefon Diggs, to one catch for four yards on four targets. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. combined for seven catches, with Rudolph hauling in a touchdown.
Diggs said Minnesota’s other receivers did a good job stepping up, particularly Treadwell and Johnson.
“The next-man-up mindset is real,” Diggs said. “We have the depth, so we expect the guys to step up and play well. They are young, but Tready has been around for a while. Bisi is young, but I told you guys that he approaches the game like he’s been in it for a while too.”
Despite the contributions of Treadwell and Johnson, it’s hard to imagine the Vikings not being better off having a healthy Thielen on the field, considering he leads the team with six touchdown receptions and is a go-to performer for Cousins on third down. The Vikings went 5 for 15 on third downs, and Cousins finished with 220 passing yards. Cousins averaged 315.3 passing yards during the Vikings’ four-game winning streak in October.
After being listed as questionable on the injury report, Thielen put on a pair of purple shorts and ran some pregame practice routes Sunday on a sunny but cool morning, evidently feeling good enough to try. He received one target on Minnesota’s first possession but, after what appeared to be a miscommunication with Cousins, was unable to corral a short pass on second down.