Members of the Minnesota Vikings, both past and present, had a lot to say after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12.
Perhaps the strongest words came from former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, who criticized Niners defensive back Josh Norman for a physical altercation with Minnesota wideout Adam Thielen.
It was late in the fourth quarter when a scrum around a loose ball ensued. With the Vikings down eight points, Thielen dove into the pile in an attempt to secure possession. Norman, for reasons that are unclear in the video, then proceeded to punch Thielen in the back multiple times.
Ron Johnson, a former NFL wide receiver and current analyst, tweeted video of the interaction Sunday afternoon, November 28.
Leber, who played linebacker for Minnesota across five seasons from 2006 to 2010 and now works in broadcasting, took exception to the incident. He called Norman out on Twitter for his part in it.
“Btw, @J_No24 you’re a punk a** for taking a cheap shot on Thielen,” Leber wrote. “Although not sure he even felt that weak a** fist.”
Vikings Head Coach Calls 49ers Cheaters Following Loss
Leber was not the only man in Minnesota with something to say about the 49ers after Sunday’s loss. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer also made some eyebrow-raising comments about the Niners’ defensive backfield during the postgame press conference, though his were more all-inclusive than Leber’s.
Zimmer called out the entire group of San Francisco cornerbacks and safeties for what he described as illegal tactics, while also criticizing the game’s referees for keeping their flags in their pockets throughout much of the night.
“These guys hold all the time,” Zimmer said of the Niners’ defensive backs. “They’re grabbing us around the waist, grabbing us on our backs. Officials don’t want to call it every play, but until they start calling it every play, they aren’t going to stop doing it.”
Zimmer took issue with several incidents of so-called holding, though he noted one in particular above the others. Niners’ corner K’Waun Williams knocked down a pass intended for Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson on a 4th-and-8 play late in the fourth quarter. The play gave possession back to San Francisco, essentially ending the game. The 49ers went on to beat the Vikings 34-26.
Niners All-Pro TE George Kittle Returns Verbal Fire at Zimmer
Understandably, members of the 49ers did not take kindly to Zimmer’s accusations. One San Francisco player who took particular exception was All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group posted video of Kittle’s postgame comments to Twitter.
“I mean, you can watch plenty of pass plays. I finally got a holding call out there on a pass route. I got hugged and tackled, and I think (there were) about three of those out there that don’t get called,” Kittle said. “It’s football. Refs throw flags, refs don’t throw flags, it’s just the game. If you’re going to sit on the sideline and complain about holding the whole time, tell your guys to make better plays.”
Regardless of who is right, the Niners won the game and moved to 6-5 on the season, while the Vikings fell to 5-6. The outcome could prove crucial in a crowded race for three NFC Wildcard spots in January, as the Niners now hold the tiebreaker over one of their main competitors for a position in the postseason.