MINNEAPOLIS – Justin Jefferson put up numbers for a big game but only needed the first half to do so Sunday against Green Bay.
The Vikings receiver caught six passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the first 30 minutes of Minnesota's season opener, in which the Vikings ultimately prevailed 23-7.
"I feel like a little kid today," Jefferson told reporters postgame. "Waking up this morning just excited for the game, especially this type of rivalry. I live for these types of big games."
It certainly was a big game for Jefferson, whose 158 yards in the first half topped Randy Moss' 147 for the Vikings against the Lions on Jan. 2, 2000.
Along the way, Jefferson grabbed his 200th career reception in fitting fashion, snagging a Kirk Cousins deep throw in-stride to gain 64 yards.
Jefferson tied Anquan Boldin & Reggie Bush as the fourth-fastest players ever to reach 200 catches. Only Odell Beckham, Jr. (30 games), Michael Thomas (32) and Jarvis Landry (33) reached the mark quicker.
The 64-yard reception is the third-longest in a Vikings Week 1 contest and the longest since Moss had a 66-yard grab in 2000. Receiver Anthony Carter holds the record with a 73-yard catch in 1987.
"Going into this game, I was just excited about what was going to come," Jefferson said. "Didn't really have too many expectations. … I'm glad K.O. (Head Coach Kevin O'Connell) called my name a couple times and glad Kirk found me."
Jefferson, who has a goal becoming the first player to hit 2,000 receiving yards in one NFL season, is clearly on the path to making history.
"I mean, that's what we're looking for," he said with a smile. "It is going to come. … God blessed me to be in this situation already, so I've just got to keep getting better, keep finding ways to get open, and I'm pretty sure K.O. is gonna move me around a lot more."
While the long catch certainly was impressive, it wasn't Jefferson's only feat in the game.
Jefferson scored two touchdowns for the Vikings in the first half, including a 36-yard catch that he finished with a dive at the pylon.
In his postgame press conference, Cousins emphasized Jefferson's ability to finish plays and get in the end zone.
"I just told him, 'J.J., a lot of guys go out at the 3, or out at the 1. The fact that you got in and got us six [points] – so we don't have to mess around with bringing out the goal-line offense or whatever it may be – that's elite,' " Cousins said. "It makes a difference for our team and winning football games."
Though Jefferson didn't make quite as big of a splash in the second half, he continued to keep the Packers defense on its toes and made three more catches for 26 yards.
Though many may have expected Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander to shadow Jefferson, Green Bay's defense actually left him startingly open on more than one occasion.
"That's the thing that I like about our offense. We move so much, we have so many players on our offense, that you can't really stick with one player," Jefferson said. "We're just gonna keep getting better.
"I feel like we're more confident in this offense," he later added. "Confident to give the ball to whoever on the field. It's crazy that we have this type of receiver corps and running backs room. It's a lot. It's a lot out there."
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings season opener win over the Packers on Sept. 11 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Not only is Jefferson excited about the Vikings offense, but he credited their defense for energizing the entire team.
"Our defense stepped it up tremendously – they did a phenomenal job. Seeing all of the sacks and the different plays they were making out there, it definitely got our juices flowing on offense," he said. "Even when we gave the ball back to their offense, went three-and-out, we knew our defense would come up and be clutch."
Sunday's win marked O'Connell's first as a head coach and started Minnesota's 2022 campaign off on quite the positive note.
"We didn't finish a lot of games [in 2021], so this year's more focused on finishing the game and trying to blow out teams," Jefferson said.
"We've just gotta keep stacking. We've gotta keep going," he added. "We're going to celebrate this win, of course, for a little bit – and then onto Philly."