Eagles Star Sounds Off on a Different Side of Vikings’ Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson

Getty Justin Jefferson's fumble in the end zone was one of four Vikings fumbles in a loss to the Eagles on Thursday, September 14, 2023.

Off the field, Justin Jefferson is one of the more bubbly, fun-loving football players in the NFL.

However, last Thursday, The 24-year-old had revenge on his mind returning to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The Vikings star wide receiver caught just 1 catch for 7 yards when he was covered by Eagles All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay a year ago. Slay snagged two interceptions in a runaway Eagles victory.

Slay noticed a stark difference in Jefferson on Thursday.

On his podcast, “Big Play Slay,” the Eagles veteran praised Jefferson for his 11-catch, 159-yard performance despite a 34-28 Vikings loss.

“Last year I had a great game against him. I can tell you for sure, he had this game circled because buddy was locked in. He wasn’t talking as much,” Slay said after surrendering seven catches for 88 yards and six first downs to Jefferson.

“I tried to talk to him one time, ‘Hey man, you ran a great route.’ He ain’t say nothing. Last year, I told him that he said ‘Appreciate that,’ Slay added. “He ain’t say nothing. He ran right back to the huddle. … He was locked in. Great battle.”

An 11-year NFL veteran, Slay noticed that Jefferson played all 58 offensive snaps for the Vikings, which is a rarity in the league. Slay said the only other receiver he’s played against who never left the field was Antonio Brown in his prime.

“Dude is amazing man,” Slay said. “I’ve only seen one other receiver do what he does. This man never comes out the game,” Slay said. “Only other dude I’ve ever seen do that is Antonio Brown. [Jefferson] got to be in the best shape in the world to be out there every play.”

Rectifying his performance in Philadelphia last season, Jefferson is looking like he could outdo his 1,809-yard season from a year ago that garnered Offensive Player of the Year Honors.

However, Jefferson was not satisfied with his play on Thursday.

Vikings’ Justin Jefferson Takes Ownership for Costly Fumble in Loss to Eagles

Justin Jefferson

GettyJustin Jefferson’s fumble in the end zone was one of four Vikings fumbles in a loss to the Eagles on Thursday, September 14, 2023.

A pivotal play that swung the game in the Eagles’ favor came at the expense of Jefferson.

Kirk Cousins connected with Jefferson for a reception at the 5-yard line. Jefferson extended the ball to break the plane of the end zone but had the ball knocked out of his hands before crossing the line as it bounced out of bounds in the end zone. Under NFL rules, the play was deemed a touchdown and a fumble on Jefferson’s behalf.

The touchback rule renewed a discussion around its merit, but Jefferson did not use the rule as a scapegoat for the play.

“I’m putting it a lot on myself,” he said in a postgame locker room interview. “Fumbling in the end zone like that when we need points and we’re driving and we’re having that momentum, I’m putting a lot of blame on myself. Of course, being a captain of the team, I know the situation. Take care of the ball. I was telling my teammates, that was on me and it won’t happen again.”

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins Defends Justin Jefferson

Kirk Cousins

GettyMinnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws the ball in Week 2.

The responsibility Cousins carries as the Vikings quarterback was evident throughout his appearance in Netflix’s “Quarterback” docuseries.

Cousins’ reaction to Jefferson’s fumble was another example of his inner critic taking responsibility for the play despite the ball being out of his hands.

“I’m going to be hard on myself, right, I’m going to say, ‘Look, that ball shouldn’t have stopped him,'” Cousins said in a postgame media conference. “The ball stops him, so he has to go up and get it and then has to pull through. What if I threw a perfect ball? What if it had dropped right in the bucket? Maybe he runs in untouched. So, again, going back to — we don’t even have to have that moment if I can throw a perfect pass and drop it in the bucket to him.”

Cousins did not fault Jefferson for extending the ball on a play he’s been successful at before.

“Players do it all the time to score a touchdown, and so we often joke that, you know, ‘Don’t reach for the end zone if you’re not going to score,'” Cousins said.

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