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Rare Special Teams Miscues Hamper Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS — On a night when Kai Forbath remained perfect as the Vikings kicker, there were a handful of noticeable mistakes by Minnesota's special teams unit.

A fumbled punt and a lack of an impact in the punting game hurt the Vikings in a 17-15 loss Thursday night against Dallas.

Minnesota's biggest miscue came with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter as Adam Thielen couldn't hold onto the ball as he was brought to the ground during a return.

"Adam took a chance on that one because we felt like we had to get some good field position for our offense," said Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer, who also served as interim head coach on behalf of Mike Zimmer. "Adam has been a fantastic special teams player over the years, and obviously he's having a good year on offense … but we can't have those type of mistakes against a team coming in here at 10-1."

Although the Vikings led 9-7 at the time, the Cowboys scored on the next play for a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"I didn't do my job well enough," said Thielen, who finished with seven catches for 86 yards. "That's a critical situation, and we talk about ball security all the time.

"I feel like I let my teammates down and Coach Zimmer down," he added.

The Vikings used a combination of Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson to return punts in the second straight game without Marcus Sherels.

Vikings punter Jeff Locke had an off night, as he averaged just 32 yards per punt (with a net average of 31.9 yards per punt) on seven kicks.

Locke landed three kicks inside the 20-yard line but had punts of 16, 25, 32 and 33 yards.

"I'm pretty disappointed in how I punted tonight," Locke said. "Especially in a close game like this, we need the field position to help us win.

"I'm going to be looking at this film pretty quick to see what's going on," he added.

Priefer said he was surprised by Locke's performance considering the fourth-year punter was in the midst of the best season of his career.

"I don't think our punter punted very well," Priefer said. "He's been having a great year … it was a very disappointing performance and he knows that.

"Hopefully we'll learn and get better," he added.

Forbath was a bright spot as he was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal tries and is 6-for-6 since signing with Minnesota in November.

Forbath attended UCLA with Locke and Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott.

"I felt good when I got here because I knew these guys well," Forbath said. "It's kind of comforting having them down there, and everyone has been real welcoming."

Priefer filled in for Zimmer on Thursday night after Zimmer was forced to miss the game after undergoing emergency eye surgery Wednesday night.

It is unknown when Zimmer is expected back, but Priefer said he has his hands full with his own unit going forward.

"I hope I'm not needed in that capacity," Priefer said. "It looks like I've got my work cut out for me with special teams."

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