Down by eight points in the final minute of Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings were 22 yards from the end zone, needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie.
With Mike Daniels bearing down on him after running through center Brett Jones, Cousins uncorked a risky throw into what Jon Gruden would call the “Turkey Hole” between corner Jaire Alexander and safety Kentrell Brice.
“When I threw it, I knew it was going to be dicey,” Cousins said. “I think it shows you Adam’s talent. We call it late hands.”
As tight as the window was, Thielen might have gotten some help from Brice, who did more to distract Alexander than Thielen. As the ball was sinking toward Thielen, Alexander had his eyes trained on Brice, who not only missed the ball but hit Alexander in the facemask on his way by.
As the screenshot shows, however, Thielen waits until the ball is practically on top of Alexander’s helmet to show his hands — “late hands,” as Cousins called it.
“You practice some of that stuff with corners,” said Thielen, referring to the technique on Monday. “We’ve done that in the past when I was a younger player. You do drills in practice where you have the quarterback throwing, and the DBs looking at you, and he has to react when you put your hands up, and you have to try to not let him react. So that’s another thing you just try to work on.”
Alexander was extremely late reacting to the catch, barely touching Thielen as he fell to the ground even as Thielen bobbled the ball. From the looks of it, Alexander was alarmed by the bearing-down Brice.
Thielen, however, was not.
“I saw the ball. I knew it was going to get over the defender’s head,” said Thielen. “I didn’t see the safety, but I knew he probably was going to be closing on me.”
The Vikings converted the two-point conversion to send the game to overtime where they would eventually tie at 29-all. Thielen finished the day with 12 catches for 131 yards — his second straight week hitting the century mark.
“That was 99 percent on Kirk,” Thielen said of the touchdown. “He threw an unbelievable ball that probably if it was an inch left or an inch higher or an inch lower gets knocked down. Just an incredible play by him. He gets hit and puts a dime in there in a really tight window.”
Thielen was subdued after the touchdown, knowing Minnesota needed a two-point conversion or the effort would be for naught. The Vikings lined up with a three-man bunch on the right side of the line and Stefon Diggs isolated on the left against Tramon Williams.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix did the Vikings a huge favor by creeping about three yards closer to the line of scrimmage before the snap, giving away his leverage over the top. That put Williams even more on an island and allowed Diggs to bluff the slant and cut to the outside corner where there was no safety help.
“We work on a lot of plays,” said Diggs. “I didn’t know which one was gonna come up … It just happened to be my number, that one. I just tried to run the route, get open.”
The Vikings can be thankful that they got some refereeing help earlier in this drive when Clay Matthews was flagged for a roughing the passer call, but without two well-executed plays by Minnesota’s top receivers — and a couple miscues by the Green Bay secondary — the Vikings would still have returned to Minnesota with a loss.