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Final Thoughts: Vikings Defense Faces Tough Task of Slowing Down Miami's Speed on Offense

EAGAN, Minn. — What's more impressive, a Jet soaring or a Cheetah zooming?

While Minnesota's Justin Jefferson and Miami's Tyreek Hill won't be facing each other physically on Sunday, the two superstar wide receivers are likely to put on a showcase when the Vikings (4-1) visit the Dolphins (3-2) at noon (CT).

Jefferson currently leads the NFL in receiving yards (547) and is second in receptions (40). Hill is third in yards with 524 and tied for fourth in catches (38).

Jefferson said he loves getting to square off against elite receivers such as Hill.

"[He's] definitely up there. He's a dynamic receiver; he's somebody you cannot just sleep on, especially with his speed, his ability to get down the field," Jefferson said. "But I love his play, I love going up against him, of course me being a fan when he was in [Kansas City], so I guess we'll see how this battle goes."

The Vikings defense will have the tall task Sunday of not just slowing down Hill – who was the fifth-fastest ball carrier at 21.91 miles per hour in 2020 according to Next Gen Stats, but Hill's receiver partner in Jaylen Waddle.

Waddle is 10th in receiving yards this season with 404 and leads the Dolphins in receiving touchdowns with three. Waddle was also the seventh-fastest ball carrier at 21.8 miles per hour in 2021.

Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson said the defense will have its hands full with both Hill and Waddle.

"[Hill's] a very, very explosive receiver," Peterson said. "His résumé speaks for itself. … You know they're going to give him the ball down the field. He's one of those guys that makes that offense go, so we have to understand where he is at all times and understand how explosive he is at any given time. They've [also] got Waddle, who's coming along big, a decent receiver, [so they have] a nice duo receiver combo, so we have our work cut out for us."

But it's not just Miami's receivers that bring the speed. Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert has just 260 rushing yards on 57 attempts and a touchdown this season, but recorded the two fastest times in 2020 while carrying the ball for the San Francisco 49ers. He reached 22.73 miles per hour in Week 1 of that season before topping it with a blistering 23.09 miles per hour the next week.

With speed to burn from the likes of Hill, Waddle and Mostert, the Dolphins have been making sure to get rookie Skylar Thompson up to speed. Miami has been preparing for Thompson to start, the first of his career because of injuries to Tua Tagovailoa (ruled out) and Teddy Bridgewater (questionable).

Thompson, a seventh-round draft pick out of Kansas State University, made his NFL debut in Week 5 against the New York Jets. Thompson completed 19 of his 33 pass attempts for 166 yards and an interception in a 40-17 loss.

Minnesota Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said the preparation won't be any different for Thompson.

"[Miami's] plan is not going to change a whole lot," Donatell said. "[Thompson's] played a lot in the preseason; he played a lot last week, and a lot of people look at the score last week and they say, 'Wow, it must have been the change of quarterback.' No, it was 19-17 in the fourth quarter and then it was a turnover and score on the other side that blew it open but that was a lot closer game, and it's a credit to them."

Here's what Sam Thiel, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of will be watching for in Sunday's game:

Can Justin Jefferson maintain his recent pace? | By Sam Thiel

Whether it's weaving around opposing secondaries, carrying the ball or delivering a rare pass, Jefferson can impact the game in a variety of ways.

Jefferson has bounced back the past two weeks after being limited to just nine receptions and 62 yards combined in Weeks 2 and 3. He hauled in 10 catches for 147 yards and added a rushing touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in London in Week 4 before recording a career-high 12 receptions for 154 yards and a two-point conversion against the Chicago Bears last Sunday.

Jefferson credited his recent success to Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's ability to scheme him open.

"It's just moving me around," Jefferson said. "Putting me in motion, just getting me off that double coverage or man-to-man look, so I think K.O. has been doing a great job of just motioning me around, giving the defense different looks. I think it's very hard for people to key on where I'm at when I'm motioning around before the play."

Jefferson also showcased his arm against the Bears, firing a pass on third-and-10 from the Chicago 32-yard line across the field to running back Dalvin Cook, who gained 23 yards and a first down.

Jefferson added although the offense is getting used to the playbook, he feels there's a lot more planned for the Vikings from that side of the ball.

"At this point, we're just adding on different concepts, stuff that we have run before but we're making it look different," Jefferson said. "K.O. has been trying not to put it on us a little bit more but we feel like we can handle it. Of course, the more we play, the more film that we have out there and the more stuff we have to run newly. We're OK with the difficulty; we just buy in by looking at the playbook and learning the plays."

Searching for a special teams bounce-back | by Lindsey Young

The Vikings special teams unit seemed to be clicking in all facets Weeks 1-4, but the group hit a rough patch last week against the Bears.

Minnesota experienced multiple special teams miscues, including a fumbled (and then recovered) punt return by Jalen Reagor, a punt by Ryan Wright that netted five yards after a penalty, a missed 53-yard field goal by Greg Joseph and a 51-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by the Bears.

Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels expressed disappointment in the performance, but he also shouldered much of the blame and acknowledged gratefulness for the team win.

"Quite frankly, we didn't hold up our end of the bargain. We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds out there that gave Chicago a little breath of fresh air," Daniels told Twin Cities media members Thursday morning. "The best part about it, a learning opportunity for us. As displeased as I was going into the locker room, I still had that sweet taste of victory. … You can fix all the issues that we had out there, but what you can't fix is the win and loss column.

"Guys were in the locker room after the game, took ownership of it," Daniels continued. "No one was really pointing fingers, myself included. I've gotta do a better job of coaching guys up, putting them in a better position, doing a better job of communicating adjustments on the sidelines of how we want to handle certain things. There's a lot of accountability and ownership that took place that was encouraging to see, and I know the guys will respond the right way."

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Dolphins.

The Vikings are preparing to head to Miami for Sunday's game which, while the Twin Cities got its first snow Friday, will bring the (literal) heat. Players made sure to hydrate early in the week and will continue preparations for the high temps, and Daniels is prepping his unit in the classroom for a bounce-back game.

Daniels pointed out that Miami's special teams group is probably the veteran-most the Vikings will face this season, with an experienced specialist trio of punter/holder Thomas Morstead, kicker Jason Sanders and long snapper Blake Ferguson. Waddle and Hill are threats to return punts, and Mostert can return kickoffs.

"We've had great conversations on how we want to attack those guys and how we want to pin them in the corners and kind of what the scope of that looks like from a coverage standpoint," Daniels said. "But we're excited about going up against this unit; it's a big-time opportunity for us, especially coming off the week we had last week."

Handling the other heat | By Craig Peters

The Dolphins defense likes to bring has much figural heat as a South Florida summer.

Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips was asked about the secondary this week but pivoted to credit the entire defense as a whole.

"I think you've seen these guys against certain teams, if you don't have a really tight plan, a really good understanding of your protection plan, they'll bring [Cover 0] pressures where they're bringing in one more than you can block at any point in the game. It might be a first-and-10.

"They've got different front structures, double-A backer package, they've got odd package, they've got a lot of different things that present a challenge. We just have to be great with our rules. We feel like we have a tight plan for those things and that's a big part of it.

View photos of Vikings players from practice on Oct. 13 at the TCO Performance Center.

Phillips said Miami Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer may not be "a household name for most people but I think he does an excellent job."

The unit tries "to change the game in those areas with their pressure plan, and the DBs do a great job of reading the QB and knowing when to stick their foot in the ground and drive routes. You've seen guys in those packages get pick-sixes, those types of things, it's all tied in together."

O'Connell said the onus to perform well against Dolphins pressure falls on the entire team.

"We've tried to put together a plan we feel really good about going down and playing against a good defense," O'Connell said. "They do a lot of different things, they've got some really good players. I'm expecting them getting healthier this week to really help them, as well, so we've got a real, real challenge.

"They're always tough to play at home as well, having my experience going there has always been one where, no matter the circumstances, it's going to be a grind all day long against a really good physical front," he added. "Their backers fly around, and they've got excellent cover players to really try to match a lot of the things that you do with man coverage and then some good zone mixers."