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Monday Morning Mailbag: Jefferson's Monster Rookie Season & Vikings Inconsistencies

several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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Is Justin Jefferson quickly becoming one of the best receivers the Vikings have ever drafted? He isn't Randy Moss ... yet. But he's quickly proving to be even better than Stefon Diggs in my opinion. What do you think?

— Ross McPhail in Vancouver, Canada

Man, is it fun to watch Justin Jefferson. That's a thought I had driving home from U.S. Bank Stadium, even if Sunday's win will likely be remembered as the Vikings pulling off a chaotic victory against a team that has just one win this season.

But Ross is on point with his question, and the answer is yes. There's no doubt that Jefferson is having one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history, and that's for all players, not just wide receivers.

Here's where Jefferson is at 12 games into his NFL career: 61 catches for 1,039 yards (17.03 yards per catch) with seven touchdowns.

The 2020 first-round pick surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on Sunday, becoming just the second Vikings rookie wide receiver to achieve that milestone. The other is Moss, who had 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first season.

And with a 121-yard performance against the Jaguars, Jefferson now holds the Vikings rookie record for most 100-yard games in a season with five, breaking his tie with Moss.

Add it all up and we are truly watching a historic rookie season for the former LSU standout. He talked after the game about getting to 1,000 yards as a rookie.

"Yeah, it was just a goal that I wanted to achieve," Jefferson said. "I know it's not likely as a rookie [to get] it.

"That's just a goal that I had in the back of my mind," Jefferson added. "That's what I wanted to achieve. I just come out here and get the job done."

I'm not about to compare him to Moss. That man is a Hall of Famer for a reason, and it's tough to think any rookie can match those 17 touchdowns he had back in 1998. (And there's a reason that the career highlight tape of his 40-yard touchdown catches on YouTube in nine-plus minutes long).

There's no doubt Jefferson brings his own style to the game with his big-play potential. In the first half Sunday, the Vikings longest play was a 20-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to Dalvin Cook. Jefferson had just two catches for 12 yards in the opening 30 minutes.

But in the second half? Jefferson scored on a 20-yard catch, and he added a 40-yard reception to inject some much-needed juice into the Vikings offense, which sputtered at times.

It's clear that he's a go-to guy for chunk plays, as Jefferson has 19 catches of 20-plus yards in 2020. He also has four receptions of 40 yards or more.

With the plays Jefferson has made over the past few months, it's sometimes easy to forget that he's just 12 games into his rookie season.

But once you remember it is indeed still his first season in the NFL — and that it was an odd beginning with a virtual offseason — you quickly realize that we are watching something special this season with the 21-year-old.

How can we stay consistent in all three phases of the game to finish out the season and hopefully make a deep playoff run?

— Thomas from Burnsville, Minnesota

I'll break Thomas' question down into two parts: consistency, and then a potential deep playoff run.

To start, I'd argue the Vikings don't need to stay consistent in all three phases, but rather that they need to find the consistency in all three phases. Sunday's game is a perfect example of that.

Minnesota's offense started slow and had its moments, but a pick-six in the third quarter — plus just three points of five possessions in the fourth quarter — aren't often the recipe for success.

View game-action images as the Vikings take on the Jaguars during Week 13 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Defensively, the Vikings were gashed early but played well for the next two-plus quarters with a handful of takeaways and a safety. But up eight late, the unit allowed the Jaguars to not only score a touchdown, but tie the game.

And special teams was up-and-down again. K.J. Osborn showed some flashes and the punt coverage team was solid, but three missed kicks — including a pair of extra points — leaves some room for improvement.

That's kind of been the story for the Vikings all season. I can't recall a single game where all three phases were on point for the duration. It's tough to win that way, but as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said postgame, credit the team for having some heart and always fighting.

Now, as for a potential deep playoff run, let's hold our horses a little on that one.

Yes, the Vikings are currently in a playoff spot after beating the Jaguars, and coupled with the Cardinals loss to the Rams on Sunday afternoon. Both Minnesota and Arizona are 6-6, but the Vikings hold the tiebreaker there.

But there are still four games to go, and three of them are on the road, meaning the Vikings still have plenty of work to do in order to get to the dance. You could argue that there's no superior NFC team this season (maybe it's New Orleans), but the Vikings certainly wouldn't fall into the upper echelon of NFC teams.

Here's what Kirk Cousins said Sunday as the Vikings enter the final four games of the 2020 season.

"Now we enter the final four games of the regular season — the fourth quarter if you will — and we've got to be at our best in the fourth quarter," Cousins said. "We have some good teams we're going to have to play, and we're going to need our best football to have a shot to get into the playoffs."

The Vikings, to date, probably haven't played their best football yet. And there's still time to make that happen. But it's going to require a lot more consistency than we saw on Sunday, and that we've seen for most of this season.

We won the game of errors!!

— Joe P.

This is a good way to sum up Sunday's win, and close out this week's Mailbag. No, Sunday wasn't pretty, and Vikings coaches and players know it.

But just as I mentioned last week, you take wins any and every way you can get them in the NFL, even if they won't hang in an art museum one day.

Through 12 games, eight of Minnesota's games have been decided by eight or fewer points. They have won five of those (at Houston, at Green Bay, at Chicago; against Carolina and Jacksonville) and lost the other three (Tennessee, at Seattle and against Dallas).

That's not too bad of a record in such close games, but you can bet Zimmer would prefer to have a little more cushion at the end than these frantic one-possession games.

And with four games to go, it's likely we see more close ones down the stretch. So hop along for the wild roller-coaster ride that is the 2020 Vikings and hope the twists and turns end up with a playoff berth.


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