Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Presented by

Lunchbreak: Justin Jefferson's Toughness on Display; Ranking Improbable Wins

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has a particular set of skills when he takes the gridiron.

He creates separation from defenders through a combination of blazing speed and precise route-running. He also takes to the air, — where his nickname of "Jets" aptly applies — showing off his vertical to make mind-boggling catches.

Throughout the season, though, Jefferson has showcased another trait that requires an equally challenging degree of difficulty: his ability to absorb contact and complete catches.

Dave Campbell of The Associated Press looked at Jefferson's recent string of games where he has taken one brutal hit after another. He wrote:

The Vikings have faced five of the league's top 12 defenses in terms of total yards allowed over their past six games, and during this stretch Jefferson has seemingly had to pay an even steeper physical price than usual to come down with the ball.

During Minnesota's 39-36 comeback victory against Indianapolis, Colts safety Rodney Thomas II was called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Jefferson along the sideline early in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore also drew 15 more penalty yards on a helmet-to-helmet hit on the Vikings next possession.

View the best photos of Justin Jefferson during his career-high game of 223 yards and 11 receptions vs. the Detroit Lions on Dec. 11, 2022.

Jefferson had to leave the game for a bit after the hit by Gilmore, as well as after a hit in the second quarter, but he finished the game despite a rib/chest injury.

"Clearly, there's an emphasis on the teams we're playing," Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "Some of those hits, they don't just seem to be by accident at times."

Jefferson also voiced his frustration with the play by Gilmore.

"I didn't really feel it was a clean hit, him lifting up and going and tackling me high," Jefferson said.

When asked Wednesday about the hits he's been taking, Jefferson compared them to the NBA in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"It's just like Michael Jordan and the Detroit Pistons. They try to take out the best player and try to put as much physical abuse as they can on him," Jefferson said. "I feel like it's happening more and more every game, but it is what it is when you're this type of player."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins said he's amazed by Jefferson's ability to stay confident and not shy away from completing catches in tight coverage.

"They're just difficult to hear footsteps and not shrink back, drop the ball, not hold on," Cousins said. "His ability to consistently hold on in traffic is just an elite trait. I don't know how you coach it, but you certainly have it, and it gives me a lot of gratitude when I see him do that and the catches he makes."

Jefferson currently leads the NFL in receptions (111), receiving yards (1,623) and receiving yards per game (115.9). He is tied for seventh with seven receiving touchdowns and ranks 13th among NFL qualifiers with 14.6 yards per catch.

He recently joined former receivers Calvin Johnson and Antonio Brown as the only three players in NFL history to record consecutive seasons with at least 1,600 receiving yards.

Jefferson can reach Johnson's league record (1,964) for receiving yards in a single season with 342 more. He also needs just 10 yards to break former Viking Randy Moss' franchise single-season record of 1,632.

"It's just going to be exciting that I even got close to it," Jefferson said about the league receiving record. "Of course, I would want to get to it, but if we make it to the big goal in the end, it doesn't matter."

Pair of Vikings comebacks place in NFL Next Gen Stats top 10

The Vikings are no strangers to come-from-behind victories this season.

Minnesota has had seven fourth-quarter comeback wins in 2022, including four by double-digits.

View photos of Vikings players showcasing the all-white jerseys they will be wearing at home against the Giants on Dec. 24.

The NFL Next Gen Stats analytics team unveiled its top 10 improbable comebacks this season, with the rankings being based on the winning team's lowest win probability.

The Vikings stunning 33-point turnaround to defeat the Colts 39-36 in overtime last weekend was ranked second on the list. Minnesota had a 0.4-percent win probability with 12:22 left in the third quarter when it trailed Indianapolis 33-0.

Given that the Vikings pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history last week, it's no surprise that their victory ranks highly on this list. In fact, the Vikings 0.4-percent minimum win probability isn't only the second-lowest by any team in a win this season, but also the second-lowest for a winning team in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016).

So how did they make it happen?

Kirk Cousins elite play in the short game was the leading factor, as he went 22 of 25 for 266 yards and four touchdowns on passes of fewer than 10 air yards after halftime. Justin Jefferson played a major role as usual, with nine receptions for 99 yards and a TD on passes thrown outside the numbers. But really, it was the ultimate team effort, as five different Vikings players scored Minnesota's five touchdowns in this legendary tale of two halves.

Minnesota's other overtime game this season — a 33-30 victory at Buffalo in Week 10 — was placed fourth on the list. The Vikings had a 0.9-percent win probability when they trailed 27-23 with 49 seconds remaining in regulation.

Imagine if we told you that a team facing a fourth-and-18 from its own 27-yard line after the 2-minute warning, while trailing by four points with one timeout remaining, went on to win a game. Now imagine if we told you that the winning team later faced an even lower win probability than it did at that moment. It might sound like fantasy, but it happened.

Jefferson made one of the greatest catches in NFL history on fourth-and-18 to keep the Vikings alive. Later on that drive, the Vikings had two chances on fourth-and-goal from the Bills 1-yard line but failed to score. Game over, right? Not exactly.

The Vikings had a win probability of less than one percent at that point, but Josh Allen fumbled the snap on the next play and it was recovered by Eric Kendricks for a touchdown. Minnesota had a three-point lead with 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and Allen responded by leading an impressive field goal drive to send the game into overtime.

Patrick Peterson's second interception of the game deep in Vikings territory sealed the volatile game.

The New York Jets' 31-30 victory over Cleveland in Week 2 took the top spot. New York had a win probability of 0.3 percent when it trailed Cleveland 30-17 with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter