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Jefferson & Thielen Make Splash for Vikings Offense Across the Pond

No jet lag for Jets.

Justin Jefferson didn't seem at all affected by the lengthy travel and six-hour time difference Sunday, when he racked up 147 receiving yards against the Saints in London.

His biggest play of the day came at a crucial moment — and solidified his status as "Man of the Match."

With the game tied at 25 apiece and under two minutes left on the clock, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw deep to Jefferson, who outran cornerback Marcus Lattimore and outstretched his hands to catch the perfectly placed ball.

The 39-yard play set up Minnesota for a 47-yard, game-winning field goal by Greg Joseph three plays later.

Jefferson spoke with media members postgame and said he wasn't surprised to see Lattimore in single coverage on him.

"They're not going to have a safety on top of Lattimore because of the type of player he is. We just assumed that 1-on-1 matchup," he explained wearing his jet necklace. "We said all week, 'If we get it, we're going to throw it deep.' It was a great play, a great call by K.O. (Head Coach Kevin O'Connell) and a great throw by Kirk."

Just three minutes earlier, the Vikings had been trailing for the first time of the day.

Cousins again looked to Jefferson, who smoothly took the handoff on a fly sweep and jogged nonchalantly to the left corner of the end zone, holding the ball at his side.

Of course, he broke out his signature touchdown celebration and performed "The Griddy" on another continent for the first time.

"It was great to hit my first Griddy in front of the London fans," he said.

Jefferson made impactful plays through all four quarters.

O'Connell put an emphasis on getting Jefferson involved early, and the Vikings certainly did that with a 10-yard completion on the first play of the contest. He had another catch later in that drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown reception by Alexander Mattison.

Just before the first half's 2-minute warning, Jefferson hauled in a catch along the sideline and tapped his toes just inside the green for a 14-yard gain. On the very next play, Cousins found Jefferson over the middle for 11 yards. The pair of double-digit catches helped set up Minnesota for a 28-yard field goal by Joseph.

Jefferson's longest catch of the afternoon (or morning, in CT time) occurred in the third quarter. He motioned to the left pre-snap, then ran back to the right side and got wide open when two Saints defenders collided. Cousins launched the ball downfield, and Jefferson made the 41-yard catch in stride.

The gaudy performance came after Jefferson was limited to just 48 and 14 receiving yards, respectively, in the Vikings past two games.

O'Connell acknowledged Jefferson's frustration over the game against Philadelphia and Detroit, but he said he complimented the 23-year-old on not allowing his angst to affect anyone's play.

"I've spent a lot of time with J.J. over the past couple weeks, just continuing to tell him how much I appreciate the leadership he's shown … and how excited he was last week for K.J. [Osborn] and Adam Thielen to make plays late in the game against the Lions to win," O'Connell said. "But no matter what we had to do today, within reason, within our normal offense, we were going to get him going.

"We knew he was going to be matched up against a premier player at his position in [Marshon] Lattimore, and I have a ton of respect for him and how he plays and competes," O'Connell continued. "But we wanted to give Justin some 1-on-1 [opportunities] when we saw them, and then obviously allow him to help the other guys, as well, on some of those early downs."

Jefferson similarly pointed out the coverage New Orleans gave him.

"[Weeks 2 and 3] I got a little bit more double teams and triple teams. This week, Lattimore pretty much followed me the whole game and was pretty much a 1-on-1 battle a majority of the game," Jefferson said. "I keep saying it. I definitely feel confident in our guys to win those 1-on-1 battles, and if I don't get double-teamed and triple-teamed, I definitely feel confident in my game to get open and give Kirk an open eye to throw me the ball.

"It feels great, especially against this type of defender," Jefferson later added. "He's definitely known around the whole league, a great corner, so I got the upper hand on this matchup."

Following the win, O'Connell presented Jefferson – along with Joseph, Eric Kendricks and Ryan Wright – a game ball.

"So proud of Justin. Huge performance," the coach said. "He earned that game ball today, but in my opinion, he earned it in the preparation leading up to today."

Jefferson led Minnesota in receiving Sunday, followed by Adam Thielen's eight catches for 72 yards.

Thielen, who received the "Man of the Match" designation after the Vikings last game in London, also praised Jefferson's performance, saying he "strongly" believes Jefferson is the NFL's best receiver.

"You just have an extra motivation to cheer for a guy that is not only a great football player, what he does on the football field is amazing, but he's an even better person," Thielen said. "I'm not just saying that because he's my teammate. I love going to work with him every day. I get to spend a lot of time with him in the receiver room."

One of Thielen's biggest catches occurred on third-and-8, just before Jefferson's back-to-back grabs of 14 and 11 yards. Cousins found Thielen over the middle for a 10-yard gain and the first down to keep that possession alive.

Thielen appeared to come up a little gimpy after two different plays in the game, but he was smiling postgame as he chalked it up to the NFL being a physical league.

"I'm banged up a little bit, but I feel a lot better after a win," said Thielen, who stressed the importance of starting recovery as soon as the team returns to Minnesota. "It's gonna be like that every week – you're gonna have some nicks and bruises. Thankfully I was able to keep playing and feel good enough to play, so that's good."

View postgame celebration photos from London following the Vikings 28-25 victory over the Saints on Oct. 2 in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

For the second week in a row, Minnesota's victory wasn't pretty.

But the Vikings know a win is a win, and they're also proud of their resilient finishes in consecutive ball games.

Thielen credited success to the team's ability to stay grounded in stressful situations.

"There's just no panic. If things aren't going great or we have a lull – obviously we don't want that; we want to be efficient; we want to get first downs and score touchdowns – but there's no panic when that's not happening," Thielen said. "We know that in this league they're going to scheme us up. They're going to do things to stop what we're really good at. You just have to respond. You just have to find a way.

"Keep fighting, keep battling and keep getting some tough first downs, and then you hope you make those big plays like Justin did down the field," he continued. "You're kind of just waiting for something like that to happen. Obviously we have a lot of confidence in the players in this room, the coaches, that we're just going to find a way."