Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson is riding rarified air through a breakout rookie campaign that rivals Hall of Famer Randy Moss’ first NFL season over two decades ago.
After catching eight passes for 135 yards in the Vikings’ 19-13 win over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, Jefferson’s fourth 100-plus yard receiving game ties Moss for the most by a Vikings rookie — and he still has seven games to go. Jefferson is the second-highest graded wide receiver in the league by Pro Football Focus, trailing only Green Bay Packers All-Pro wideout Davante Adams.
It’s safe to say it takes a lot to impress Jefferson, who took a playful jab at his mentor, Adam Thielen, in his postgame press conference on Monday.
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Jefferson Grades the Catch a 9 Out of 10
When asked about Thielen’s one-handed touchdown grab to put the Vikings ahead of the Bears in the first quarter, Jefferson admitted it was a “great catch,” but would not give it a perfect score.
.@JJettas2 doesn't just hand out 10s
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 17, 2020
“Great catch. Difficulty level is definitely a 9 out of 10,” Jefferson said.
“It was only a 9 out of 10 on difficulty?”
“Nine out of 10. Nine out of 10,” Jefferson repeated with a smirk, averting eye contact with the camera. “I’ve seen some difficult ones, I’d give it a nine.”
“You’re gonna tell him that?”
“I’ll tell him that right now when I go in there (the locker room),” Jefferson said with a laugh.
Willing to back up the talk, Jefferson added “I gotta get me a one-hander this year too.”
The duo of Thielen and Jefferson has proven to be one of the league’s top wide receiver tandems. While Jefferson is ranked second among wide receivers by PFF, Thielen follows at No. 7 and is tied for a league-leading nine touchdown receptions.
Jefferson’s Spark to Vikings Locker Room
Jefferson’s joy for the game is evident as his touchdown celebration, “The Griddy,” has taken the league by storm with his infectiousness. His play, along with Thielen and Dalvin Cook’s presence, have helped reignite the team’s competitive spirit after a 1-5 start to the season.
“Not having fans in the stadium we was [sic] lacking a lot of energy the first couple weeks. We found that energy. We found that swagger we’ve been having,” Jefferson said. “The last three weeks that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Jefferson’s 54-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter against the Bears helped set up a tying field goal and breathed life into the offense that found itself in a dogfight with a stout Bears defense.
Through 9 games this season, Jefferson has 4 games of at least 100 yards.
The record for a rookie since the merger is by @obj in 2014 with 7
Jefferson now has seven games to break the recordpic.twitter.com/VymaWrPe3E
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 17, 2020
Jefferson surpassed the 100-yard mark on the play, ultimately cementing himself next to Moss in the Vikings’ record books.
“It means a lot. I definitely did not imagine me being in this situation — being compared to pretty much a Hall of Famer,” Jefferson said of matching Moss’ record.
Jefferson will continue to chase fellow LSU alumnus Odell Beckham Jr.’s record seven 100-plus yard rookie performances as he’s beginning to make a serious case for himself in the Offensive Rookie of the Year debate — totaling 42 catches for 762 yards and three touchdowns this season.
“I just got to keep focusing and keep playing my game,” Jefferson said.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter@trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.