MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Jefferson will have to wait another year to challenge Randy Moss for one of the most hallowed records in franchise history.
Jefferson ended his 2021 season with five catches for 107 yards in Sunday's finale, which put him at 1,616 total receiving yards on the season.
While that total is impressive in its own right, the tally fell just 17 yards short of passing Moss' single-season record of 1,632 yards set back in 2003.
Not that Jefferson had any regrets after a 31-17 win over the Bears.
"Just being that close and not getting it, definitely tough but it is what it is," Jefferson said.
Jefferson's teammates were well-aware of where he was in his pursuit of the record, both during the week leading up to the game or during Sunday's contest.
Kirk Cousins said he was hopeful Jefferson would be able to get the record against the Bears.
"We talked all week really. I mentioned it at his locker earlier this week that I was aware of it," Cousins said. "I didn't want him to ever think that I'm not aware of it and that I want to help him as best I can. He understands as a professional that the win comes first and we've got to play the game. You're not going to go chasing it. But we were close."
Jefferson sat at 107 receiving yards near the midway point of the fourth quarter, and was wide open on a crossing route near the end zone with the Vikings having the ball at Chicago's 21-yard line.
But Cousins threw to another open player — K.J. Osborn — who hauled in the score. Jefferson didn't record a catch for the rest of the game.
"As soon as we called it, I knew it was going to be an opportunity for either me or K.J.," Jefferson said. "But me going across the field, me being wide open and seeming wide open, I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is me.'
"Me seeing the ball in the air, I was like, 'Aw, man.' But then seeing K.J. score, I was like 'OK – cool.' It's all good, as long as we scored, as long as we have it won, it's all good," Jefferson added. "I'm not really trippin', I'll just try to get it another time."
Cousins said: "In hindsight, if I could hit the reset button, yeah, would love to hit J.J. there, get the record and a touchdown for him. But a great play by K.J. as well."
Even without the record, Jefferson put a shiny bow on his first two seasons in the league.
Not only does he hold the record for the most receiving yards in a player's first two seasons in the league (3,016), Jefferson tied another accolade Sunday.
His five catches put him at 196 in his first two seasons, which tied Michael Thomas' mark of catches in a player's first two seasons in the league.
Cousins said he once again came away impressed with Jefferson, who has now stacked back-to-back stellar seasons together.
"It doesn't take away from the fact that he had a great game and a great season. I believe he got over 3,000 [yards] for his first two years in the NFL," Cousins said. "That was something I wanted to do if we didn't get the record, get over 3,000. As I told him when I talked to him about the record, I told him, we were asked in the spring, 'What does Justin Jefferson have to do this next year?' And I said, 'Nothing different.'
"You'd be surprised how challenging it is to run it back and do it again. And do it again and do it again. I said, 'The great ones don't really do anything different. But they do it again and again and again,' " Cousins added. "And I said, 'Your challenge is going to be in Year 3, 4, 5, 6, to look back and still be doing it year in and year out.' There's a lot of variables that affect that but that's really going to be his challenge. We will see if he can do it and we can do it.
View game action photos between the Vikings and Bears during the Week 18 season finale matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Jefferson also reflected on his first 33 games in the NFL that has also included 17 touchdowns.
Jefferson was asked what he has learned about himself.
"One, I'm good at football," he quipped in a response that drew laughs. "I'm able to play and be in this league, and it didn't take very long for me to get the hang of it. But I just gotta keep going. I just gotta find ways to better myself and keep going."
Jefferson soon turned reflective when he looked at what may lie ahead for his future.
"This is only my second year. There's so many things that I have to learn, have to experience, so this is only the start for me," Jefferson said. "I'm only just reaching the top.
"A lot of these other guys, six years in, seven years in, and being at the top of the league, and it's my second, so, I got so many more things to overcome, so many more things to learn, achieve, and I'm just here to start," Jefferson added.