Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots got under Adam Thielen's skin on Sunday in Week 13. During the fourth quarter of New England's 24-10 win, Thielen and Belichick began yelling at each other on the sideline.
Thielen said he had a problem with safety Patrick Chung going down with an injury after the Vikings narrowly converted a fourth-and-1. That allowed Belichick the time to look at the play and decide to challenge it. Ultimately, Belichick lost the challenge but before the ruling came down in the Vikings' favor, Thielen made it clear he didn't appreciate what appeared to be gamesmanship from New England.
"I just thought the play was cheap," Thielen said at Gillette Stadium on Sunday in the locker room. "I wasn't directing (frustration) toward him. I just thought the play was cheap. 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, then 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 on when it's a close play."
Was Thielen offended by Belichick during the exchange, which seemed to include a number of curse words?
"No offense taken," Thielen said. "It's football. There's emotions. He can think what he wants to think about me. Doesn't change how I'm going to play the game. He can hate me all he wants, and I'm going to still be the same person I am."
Was the frustration directed at Belichick?
"It wasn't necessarily at him," Thielen said. "It was more so just frustrated with the situation. But it's not an illegal play. The guy has the right to go down. It's just a frustrating situation when it's a close yardage that could be reviewed and a guy goes down. Like I said, I don't know if the guy was hurt. Just a frustrating timing of that."
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy jumped in and ushered Thielen away from Belichick. Van Noy was asked why he felt the need to get involved.
"Get back in the huddle and let's play," Van Noy said. "We're out there to play, not worry about what the other coaches are doing."
As for Belichick, he was asked whether the interaction was just a pair of holiday greetings.
"Pretty much," he said with a smile at his postgame news conference.
Belichick didn't have much reason to be frustrated. He and the Patriots manhandled the Vikings, particularly in the second half, when New England scored two touchdowns. Stopping Thielen seemed to be a focal point for the Patriots, who threw double teams at the Vikings receiver for most of the game. He finished with five receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Was Thielen's frustration related to New England's game plan?
"They did some things that caught us off guard that they haven't been doing," Thielen said. "It's nothing that we haven't seen in the past few weeks. They do a good job of keeping you off balance. … They gave us some looks blitz-wise and they kept us really off balance."