New England Patriots

By Ty Anderson,

Minnesota Vikings wideout Adam Thielen’s night of arguing with everybody within earshot was not officially complete until the ultra-talented receiver got into a war of words with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Given the upfront nature of Thielen’s barking towards the New England sideline, Belichick actually engaged (as much as he would in that moment, anyway) and told Thielen to “shut the [expletive] up,” as captured by the NFL on FOX camera crew.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Belichick, almost holding back a smirk, said when asked if he was simply exchanging holiday greetings with the player most would agree has been the league’s top wideout this season.

Despite its seemingly random nature, though, there was a method behind Thielen’s on-field madness.

With the Vikings down by 14 points early in the fourth quarter, Latavius Murray appeared to convert a key 4th-and-1 for a Minnesota offense that struggled all night long. But the conversion was anything but obvious, leaving the Patriots just a few moments to decide whether or not they wanted to challenge the spot of the ball. And in need of some extra looks from above, and already 0-for-1 on challenges, Patriots safety Patrick Chung suddenly fell to the turf with an apparent injury.

This obviously gave Belichick ample time to reach into his sock (he actually reached into the wrong one at first) and throw the challenge flag. Sensing that Chung and the Patriots were up to some time-killing trickery, Thielen simply lost it.

“I’ve got to keep my cool,” Thielen said. “I have a lot of respect for [Belichick] and what he’s done. I can’t lose it like that.”

It’s also worth noting that Thielen did almost nothing of substance after that incident, and actually dropped the next pass thrown his way from Kirk Cousins in what was a failed comeback attempt on the part of the Vikes.

Still, Thielen stands behind calling Chung and the Patriots out for what he believes was a cheap move on their part.

“I just thought the play was cheap. I wasn’t directing it towards [Belichick]. I just thought the play was cheap,” Thielen noted. “I let my 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’ve 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.”

Thielen was also likely feeling the frustration of what was one of his worst performances of the season, with just five catches (on 10 targets) for 28 yards and a touchdown. Something Kyle Van Noy, the first Patriot to confront Thielen after he jawed at Belichick, noted in his postgame meeting with the media, asking, “how many catches did [Thielen] have?”

And while Thielen will walk away upset with the potentially nefarious tactics that allowed Belichick to curse at him in the first place, the Pats defense is instead thrilled with the passion displayed by everybody involved in the situation.

“I thought the coolest thing was [Kyle Van Noy] had Bill’s back right away; He jumped in Thielen’s face, but I love when we get in games like this, just going back and forth,” Devin McCourty said after the victory, their sixth in as many home games this season. “I’ve talked to Thielen a bunch of times off the field, a great guy, but everybody’s out there battling and it’s all about sometimes football comes down to a yard and we’re out there on fourth-and-1 fighting for a yard.”

“It takes a lot for Bill Belichick to say something to you,” Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon told reporters. “It just lets you all 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.”

In fact, Belichick’s only prior recorded moment with similar fire thrown an opponent’s way came during an exchange with the Ravens’ Derrick Mason, which saw Belichick lay into Mason with a profanity-laced tirade that included a ‘scoreboard’ remark.

“Bill’s fiery,” McCourty offered. “We see it every day, so I think it’s probably a lot cooler for you guys to see it.”

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 98.5 The Sports Hub. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.