Minnesota Vikings veteran Adam Thielen knows that lingering feeling a player wears off after missing an opportunity on the field.
Speaking on behalf of tight end Irv Smith Jr., Thielen has no doubt the tight end will bounce back better than ever in its fourth year after dropping a pass that ended the tide of a demoralizing 24-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles could have turned September 19.
Thielen still sat with the bad taste of a primetime loss to the Eagles and didn’t direct an ounce of malice to Smith, who caught Flak in the fan base for dropping a pass late in the first half that would have been enough for a touchdown .
Had Smith taken the chance, Minnesota could have reduced the Eagles’ lead to a single possession and had a chance at a tie and the ball to start the second half. It certainly would have offered more optimism at half-time, but Thielen conceded that the side must first take responsibility for their game.
“He’s such a talented player and such a great guy, of course I feel for him, but this game didn’t amount to this game,” Thielen said in a dressing room interview on September 19. “He’ll be a better footballer just because of that.”
Thielen, who has risen from a purely special team role to a beginning offensive star, recognized the pressure a player puts on themselves when options are limited – and that each of those missed opportunities motivates the next.
“We’ve all been in this situation before. We all had plays like that, we can look back on our career that pushed us a little bit more and I think he will be a big, big factor in us winning football games in the future,” added Thielen.
While Smith’s drop was a lowlight of the Eagles’ loss, he clinched the only touchdown for the Vikings on Monday. Smith finished the game with five receptions for 36 yards on eight goals, including that third down conversion that flashed his space running skills.
Smith, who underwent meniscus surgery that forced him to miss the 2021 season and thumb surgery in August, is still returning to his form after not playing a game in almost two years. The former second-round pick is in the last year of his rookie deal and will have to field this season if he receives a second contract from the new Vikings regime.
“Such a defeat is not nice, we don’t take it lightly at all, but at the same time we have a long season and we know our goals. As a team, we’re just going to come together, take that and look each other in the eye as men and move forward,” Smith said in a Sept. 19 locker room interview. “Your goal as a tight end and offense player is to get touchdowns and put points on the board. When I did that I was definitely excited, some pieces I would have liked to have done but there is room for improvement.”