Justin Jefferson had plenty of impressive catches during his 169-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Packers Sunday.
But the most interesting play featuring Jefferson wasn't necessarily his flashiest. The Athletic's Arif Hasan delved into the Vikings passing success between Kirk Cousins and Jefferson, and one of the plays he broke down was a 9-yard touchdown pass to the receiver.
What made the play unique was that Jefferson lined up in the backfield pre-snap. Hasan wrote:
On this play, it was Jefferson's job to read the interior defender. If [Henry] Black fans to the outside, that means Jefferson reads the other defender, Rasul Douglas. Knowing that Black either has him in man coverage or the inside zone, Jefferson reads what Black's leverage is on the play. If Black hits an alignment on top of the numbers on the field, Jefferson breaks inside. If Black hesitates or stays inside, Jefferson goes out.
There's a natural pick created by [Adam] Thielen's route that should give Jefferson more space on that out-breaking route in the case that Black follows Jefferson.
In the opposite case, one where Douglas simply takes an outside zone, Jefferson has better body positioning and a good shot at a touchdown. None of that mattered, though, as his initial choice — essentially a running back angle route, also called a Texas route — worked to perfection.
Hasan noted that Jefferson had lined up in the backfield at LSU "on occasion" but hadn't previously done so for Minnesota.
We probably won't see it that often as it's unlikely that the Vikings will want him to run it up the middle. As [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer pointed out, "Everybody knows he's not in there for protection."
Craig: 49ers 'can be ball-hogging bullies'
After back-to-back wins to claw themselves back to .500, the Vikings will hit the road for another West Coast trip, this time to face the 49ers, who hold an identical 5-5 record.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune dug into San Francisco's defeat of Jacksonville last week and noted that the Niners "can be ball-hogging bullies." He wrote:
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the 49ers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars won the coin toss.
So far, so good.
They deferred. Everybody in the NFL defers. Even a two-win team with the seventh-worst scoring defense in the league.
The 49ers fielded the kickoff and ran play after play after play after …
Twenty-three snaps later, the 49ers led 3-0. Jacksonville's offense had yet to step on the field.
The final tally was 13 minutes, 5 seconds — the NFL's longest drive, time-wise, since Nov. 27, 1997, when the then-Tennessee Oilers had one that lasted 13:27 against Dallas.
Craig wrote that "the surging Vikings will get a look at the equally surging 49ers" this weekend.
With an interesting mixture of runners, [Head Coach] Kyle Shanahan's physical, ball-control attack has helped the up-and-down 49ers win three of their past four games, including Sunday's 30-10 rout at Jacksonville.
Time of possession isn't one of football's more vital statistics. The Packers, for example, needed only nine seconds to go 75 yards in one play to tie the Vikings in the closing minutes of Sunday's loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But time of possession isn't totally devoid of all importance. The top five teams in average time of possession — Baltimore (33:46), Tennessee (32:02), Arizona (32:00), Green Bay (31:49) and Cleveland (31:48) – have winning records. The bottom seven — Seattle (24:42), Jacksonville (26:48), Houston (28:00), Atlanta (28:27), the Jets (28:37), Detroit (28:42) and Philadelphia (28:45) — have losing records.
Craig emphasized the importance of Minnesota's defense getting San Francisco's offense off the field, saying the Vikings especially will need to be wary of 49ers running back Deebo Samuel, who can certainly hurt an opponent.
In just 10 games, Samuel already has become the first 49er to post at least five receiving touchdowns (5) and at least three rushing touchdowns (3) since running back Ricky Watters had six rushing and five receiving in 1994.
Samuel carried the ball three times for 23 yards on Sunday's first drive alone.