Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) runs from Carolina Panthers punter Brad Nortman (8) as he returns a blocked punt for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfe
Ann Heisenfelt
December 05, 2014

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had dinner with Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James on Wednesday night, and, of course, they talked about the rookie's spectacular one-handed touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys last month.

James had tweeted it was the greatest catch he had ever seen.

The two texted and James' marketing people arranged their dinner with the Cavaliers in New York for a game against the Knicks on Thursday night.

''He is my favorite athlete and to be able sit down, civilized people, and just have dinner and a conversation, that was nice,'' said Beckham, who was voted the NFL's top offensive rookie in November, when he led the league with 593 yards receiving.

The two did compare the size of their hands and Beckham said they were the same size, except James' thumb is bigger.

Beckham didn't hesitate to say that James could have made the same catch.

''It's LeBron,'' Beckham said. ''He could do it all.''

By the way: LeBron picked up the tab for dinner.

ADDING TO THE REPERTOIRE: Undrafted out of the NCAA Division II program at Minnesota State, wide receiver Adam Thielen needed to diversify his skills to solidify a roster spot with the Minnesota Vikings this season after spending last year on the practice squad.

How's this for evidence of progress? He won NFC special teams player of the week.

Thielen quickly showed his ability during training camp as a productive punt returner and effective tackler on the punt coverage team despite not playing any defense in college. Through 12 games, he's third on the Vikings in special teams tackles with nine.

Last Sunday against Carolina, he went even further by racing through the middle of the line to smother a punt with a leaping block. He not only recovered the loose ball after landing on the turf. but got up and raced 30 yards with it for a touchdown.

''It's actually a really fun thing for me because I've never done it, so it's kind of a challenge and something that I've really focused on to get better at,'' Thielen said. ''Because that's my role right now, and I'm trying to take full advantage of the plays that I have.''

ALWAYS IN THE NEWS: It seems the NFL always is in the news this year, and hardly just for on-field stuff.

According to the most-searched lists compiled by Bing.com, the NFL has dominated searches of sports-related stories in 2014, with six in the top 14. No other league came close.

The Seahawks' Super Bowl victory over Denver came in second among searched sports stories, with the Ray Rice case fourth. Michael Sam being drafted was eighth, followed at No. 10 by searches for mock drafts - we kid you not.

Adrian Peterson's child abuse case and suspension was 12th, and an off-field investigation involving 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was 14th.

As for news stories that impacted people, Bing.com found two from the NFL in the top six: the Super Bowl and Ray Rice.

For team searches, seven NFL teams made the top 10, led by Seattle and Dallas. Pittsburgh was fourth, Denver fifth, Minnesota seventh, Arizona eighth and Green Bay ninth.

BRINGING THE HEAT: The Eagles are second in the NFL with 42 sacks, including an NFC-leading 12 1/2 by Connor Barwin. Seven players have set or tied a career high, including Barwin, Vinny Curry (7) and Brandon Graham (5 1/2).

The Eagles sacked Colin Kaepernick four times in a loss at San Francisco and brought Cam Newton down nine times in a win over Carolina. Russell Wilson is another mobile quarterback who presents a tough challenge when Philadelphia (9-3) hosts Seattle (8-4) on Sunday.

''If you collectively rush him as a group, I think we'll be OK from that aspect, and he's still going to make his plays,'' defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. ''Guys like this are going to make their plays.''

Wilson has been sacked 31 times this season, a high number for such a mobile QB.

GUTSY CALL: Broncos safety David Bruton revealed that he - and not coach John Fox - called for the fake punt in Denver's 29-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

The Broncos were facing fourth-and-7 from their 36 when Bruton noticed one of the two players covering gunner Bubba Caldwell moved inside the defensive end. So, he audibled to a direct snap and gained 13 yards.

''We were actually supposed to kick it,'' Bruton said. ''I just knew that they were going to give us a look, so I made the audible myself.''

Coach John Fox said he has faith in Bruton, a sixth-year pro out of Notre Dame, to make that call.

''David is a very smart player that takes a lot of pride in his whole game, not just as a defensive player but as a special teams player,'' Fox said. ''He is our special teams captain. With that experience and with us and our staff, there is a lot of trust there. It's an audible that can occur and we trust him enough to add that responsibility.

''He chose wisely.''

BAD STARTS: The Carolina Panthers were a playoff team a year ago, but are mired in a six-game losing streak and are 3-8-1 with four games remaining. Two of the major reasons are poor play by quarterback Cam Newton and slow starts.

The Panthers have trailed at halftime in nine of 12 games, and been outscored 178-75 in the first half. In the past six games, the Panthers have managed just one touchdown and 25 points in the first half.

Over the past six games Newton has thrown nine interceptions and six TD passes and been sacked 25 times.

''It's really disappointing,'' tight end Greg Olsen said. ''It's frustrating. It's every adjective you can come with, it's that. Right now we're not very good. We're not playing very well, and you lose in this league when you play poorly. It's pretty simple.''

YES, DEAR: New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker is careful about what he says in front of reporters and television cameras, rarely making headline-worthy comments.

His wife, country singer Jessie James Decker? Well, she usually just says what's on her mind.

''She's obviously unfiltered,'' Eric Decker said, ''which is comical.''

The two were on their own reality TV show - ''Eric and Jessie: Game On'' - for two seasons, and both have large fan bases on social media.

Jessie has used Twitter and Instagram to address critics of her husband, and told a New York-based radio station earlier this week that Eric was ''depressed'' because of the Jets' 2-10 record. Former Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards said during a spot on SportsNet New York that Decker, who leads the team with 49 catches, 531 yards and four TDs, chose money over a playoff-contending team when he signed with New York in the offseason after four years with Denver.

''So for all the people that have accused Eric of choosing money, you don't know anything,'' Jessie wrote on Instagram, but later deleted the comment. ''You don't know anything. He was never asked, called or offered anything from the Broncos! But we couldn't be happier to be in NJ and NYC. God has a plan for everything.''

Decker said his wife wasn't responding to Edwards specifically, but to critics in general.

''It's just the overall perception of people,'' he said. ''If we're 9-3, this conversation wouldn't be happening. I feel like the decision I made in March to come here was for good reasons. I believe this will eventually turn.''

The wide receiver did acknowledge it's sometimes a challenge to deal with his wife publicly commenting on issues that affect them.

''It's something where I don't want to be standing here (with) questions every time I'm at my locker,'' he said. ''But I do love that she speaks her mind. It says a lot.''

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Dave Campbell and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., Tom Canavan, Steven Wine and

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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