Note to former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Justin Jefferson’s records add up to win.
Remember when former coach Mike Zimmer refused to let Justin Jefferson pursue a long-standing franchise record last season?
With the Vikings mired in mediocrity in Week 18, fighting their way to the end of a joyless season, Zimmer had the chance to help Jefferson make history. Generational talent was at the fingertips of Randy Moss and his franchise single-season record for most receiving yards.
Instead of trying to help Jefferson get the franchise record, Zimmer apparently went out of his way to make sure that didn’t happen. He even opted to take a knee on the last play of the game. In the end, Jefferson completed 16 receiving yards from Moss, whose franchise-record 1,632 receiving yards survived to see another day.
Asked about the decision afterward, Zimmer growled, “I don’t care about records. I only care about wins.
This trade seems like an eternity after Sunday, when new coach Kevin O’Connell helped Jefferson go nuclear at US Bank Stadium.
Not only did Jefferson finish with 184 receiving yards to lead the Vikings to a 23-7 victory over the Green Bay Packers, but the star third-year receiver showed the full potential of an offense that uses him as a point focal.
“Coming into this game, I was really excited,” Jefferson said. “I didn’t really have too many expectations. I’m just glad KO called my name multiple times.
It was actually more than a couple of times. There were a number of Jefferson highlight streaks in the game. It all proved that O’Connell is the perfect person to lead the Vikings into the future.
The incredible day for Jefferson started with him catching a 20-yard catch and a 22-yard catch respectively on the first practice of the game, then moving close to the goal line and making an easy touchdown.
Talk about making a statement. And it turned out that Jefferson was just getting started.
He added a 64-yard catch a few sets later, on a long pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins and nearly broke away for another touchdown. He found the end zone on the next possession, catching a pass down the middle before missing a few defenders en route to another touchdown.
Although it sometimes seemed unbelievable how open Jefferson was throughout the game, cornerback Patrick Peterson noted how O’Connell helped receiver Cooper Kupp to 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. last with the Super Bowl champion, the Los Angeles Rams.
“I knew it would be a really good marriage,” Peterson said. “We have an offensive guru like (O’Connell) who calls plays and finds new ways to open (Jefferson). When we have a receiver like that, we want to find ways to get him on the ball as many times as possible, and KO is really good for that.
This is very good news for the Vikings.
While it’s not rocket science to get the ball from Jefferson on a regular basis, Zimmer never seemed to get it. That shouldn’t be a problem with O’Connell leading the charge. He knows how talented Jefferson is and it’s clear he’s going to use his skills.
“He’s a great receiver in this league and he’s probably going to be the number one receiver in this league,” outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith said. “It happens. He works every day in training and that will translate into games.
After coming so close to setting a franchise record last season, Jefferson needs to get Moss’ attention again after his performance on Sunday. Asked about his goals heading into this season, Jefferson mentioned how he would like to reach 2,000 yards.
“That’s my goal,” he said with a smile. “There’s no better way to start.”
Maybe he underestimated. Especially with O’Connell now in charge.