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Thielen Returns to Action for Vikings; Cook Leaves Game with Shoulder Injury

There's nothing too flashy about a 7-yard catch.

But when it's Adam Thielen making the grab in his first significant game action since Week 7, it's a big deal.

Thielen was targeted on the Vikings second play of the game Sunday afternoon at Los Angeles, and the catch garnered a warm response from Minnesota fans who filled nearly 90 percent of the road stadium.

Thielen had been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury suffered at Detroit in October; he did attempt to come back in Week 9 but returned to the sidelines after one series and hadn't played since.

"It's good to get my feet wet and get back out there and go through a game, and I feel really good," he said.

"It's good to get back out there with my teammates and get a win and just get back to playing football," Thielen later added. "That's what I love to do, and I love to fight and try to win."

On that first Minnesota drive, Thielen was one of seven Vikings receivers or runners to touch the ball at least once, including rookie tight end Irv Smith, Jr., who caught a pass from Kirk Cousins in the back of the end zone to put Minnesota on the board.

The number of available targets for Cousins allowed the Vikings to work Thielen back in without concern of overdoing it on his first game back.

He finished the day with three catches for 27 yards and one 3-yard rush.

Two of Thielen's receptions occurred on third downs; the first gained 13 yards on third-and-7, and the second gained 7 on third-and-11. Both of those drives ended in field goals by Dan Bailey.

Cousins said the first of the two – which moved the Vikings into Chargers territory – was "made off-schedule" with Thielen.

"There's just a lot of trust and confidence," Cousins said. "And he should have had another third-down conversion; I worked the opposite side away from him and had to say 'No' to it, and by the time I got back to him, he had been open, and I got to him too late and they converged on him. So, that would have been another conversion to him if I had started with him.

"It was good to have him back. You remembered quickly how nice it is to have a target with that much experience and the hands and a natural feel for the position," Cousins continued. "Didn't have a lot of attempts, didn't have a lot of cracks at it today, but I guess we didn't need it. I fully expect to really be relying on him in the weeks ahead."

Unfortunately, although Thielen returned for the Week 15 matchup, running back Dalvin Cook took his teammate's place on the sideline.

Cook went down with a shoulder injury just one minute into the third quarter; shortly after, he was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer did not provide an update as to Cook's status after the game. Asked if the injury was the same one Cook has been dealing with, however, Zimmer responded, "No, it's not."

Thielen said it was difficult to see Cook leave the game.

"We know how tough he is, and we know how tough he is for this football team. I'm sure he'll be back out there playing again and doing his thing," Thielen said.

Cousins said it will be important to "take it one day at a time" in assessing Cook's injury and whether or not he'll be available for the Vikings-Packers showdown on Monday Night Football next week.

The quarterback emphasized that they won't hurry Cook back before he's ready.

"We'll be patient with it. Whether he goes or not, we'll have a plan," Cousins said. "Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, Alex Mattison, whoever we're calling on – C.J. Ham – thankfully we've asked a lot of them already this year, and they've shown they're very capable of handling a larger role."

Cook recorded nine carries for 27 yards before suffering the injury.

Boone stepped up with 56 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries; Abdullah added 25 yards on five attempts.

Ham had one carry for five yards, and even Cousins gained 14 yards on a designed run on third-and-1.

"We just have so many guys that can make plays on this team, on this offense, and we just trust anybody who's going to go in there to make a play," Thielen said. "It's fun when you have a group like that – it makes it tough on defenses, and you can do so much, it really just creates so much ability to do a lot as an offense.

"It hasn't always been that way, so we're very fortunate," he added. "You've seen it the last few weeks, and all those reps and guys making plays is going to help us moving forward."

The Vikings 39-10 victory improved them to 10-4 as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Minnesota will host Green Bay for the prime-time Border Battle on Dec. 23 and Chicago for a noon kickoff on Dec. 29.

View postgame celebration images that followed the Vikings win over the Chargers.

The Rams were defeated handily by the Cowboys, which helps the Vikings positioning in the Wild Card race. If the season ended today, Minnesota would be the No. 6 seed.

But Thielen emphasized that the Vikings are focused only on themselves and what they can control.

"We're not really worried about the position and things like that," Thielen said. "We're worried about Green Bay now, and Monday Night Football. We know we're going to have our work cut out this week; they're a great football team and have won a lot of games so far. So, we're just going to prepare for them just like it's another week."

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