Kevin Seifert ESPN Staff Writer
- ESPN.com NFL Writer
- ESPN.com NFC North Reporter, 2008-2013
- Covering the Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999 -2008
MINNEAPOLIS – It’s the Minnesota Vikings’ dream scene. Superstar catcher Justin Jefferson sprinted through the Green Bay Packers’ middle school on Sunday, throwing a ton of open passes on the way to the best game of his career.
Jefferson had nine catches for a career-best 184 yards and a 23-7 victory over their NFC North rivals at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Vikings Two touchdowns. But the nature of Jefferson’s catch is amazing.
According to ESPN Stats and Information Research, Jefferson averaged 4.0 yards on his 11 targets and had 138 receiving yards when he had at least 3.0 yards distance, his yardage in the game. On a 64-yard shot in the second quarter, he had no defender within 10 yards.
“I thought someone was coming against me from behind,” Jefferson said. “I thought [Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander] was running with me. But he wasn’t there. It kind of shocked me, but I’m glad I got into the finish zone.”
V The Kings played their first game under new coach Kevin O’Connell’s plan, and Jefferson said he’d like to see the usual double-teams and clouds he’s gotten used to during his first two seasons in the league. cover. However, he was surprised to see that the Packers didn’t keep asking Alexander to follow him in reporting.
Alexander was also surprised. When asked about a potential matchup, Alexander made the first gesture of opening his mouth, then said: “All week, [he] has been asking for this matchup. But it’s not about me. It’s about the team. Not about me. If it was my way, you know what I would do.”
O’Connell’s plan is partly responsible. Jefferson was lined up on the field and it was difficult to track him. Jefferson dunked 41 times from the perimeter, including 12 in the slot, 2 in the backcourt and 1 as a tight end. Nearly half of his total yards (91) came from the slots, and another 93 came from the perimeter, making him the second player in the past seven seasons to accumulate at least 90 yards in both the slots and the perimeter.
Jefferson also got into the pre-dunk action on seven of his dunks and targeted four of them, including a 5-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
“I absolutely love this move,” Jefferson said, “and just seeing the whole field. I’m pretty sure I’ll do more.”
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.