December 6, 2022
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Jefferson gets career-high 12 catches and 1 memorable pass in Vikings win

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Receiver Justin Jefferson’s smile didn’t get much bigger after his latest high – a career-best 12 catches, for 154 yards, in the Vikings’ 29-22 win against the Bears on Sunday – than when his throw was mentioned in the locker room postgame.

“I love it,” Jefferson said. “A chance for me to show off my arm a little bit. I wish he would’ve scored.”

‘He’ is running back Dalvin Cook, who was on the receiving end of a trick play Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell dialed up to get out of a rare long third down against the Bears. Jefferson caught a screen pass and immediately threw the ball to the other sideline, where Cook ran for a 23-yard gain.

Even Jefferson’s passes — like Kirk Cousins’ — were “automatic” for the Vikings in the first half. Cousins started by completing 17 straight passes, including eight to Jefferson for 122 yards while building a 21-3 lead in the first half.

“If you go back and watch those 17 throws, I would think you’d see they’re very automatic,” Cousins said. “That says a lot about the plan, the coaches and my teammates.”

Jefferson’s latest monster effort – his third time reaching at least 147 receiving yards through five games – came courtesy of a game plan that routinely had Jefferson running open against the Bears defense. Jefferson broke Randy Moss’ team record for catches in a player’s first three seasons. He now has 236 catches through 38 games.

“I’m trying to be like him,” Jefferson said of Moss. “It’s definitely great to have the seasons I’ve been having but, you know, we got to get to that playoffs, get to that Super Bowl. That’s the main goal of our season. Not the accolades and not the touchdowns and all that.”

Jefferson found success against whatever the Bears tried in the first half. He had four catches for 55 yards on the opening touchdown drive, including a 14-yard out route against soft zone coverage by Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon and a 16-yard crosser against man-to-man coverage by Bears cornerback Jaylon Jones. Chicago played without its top corner, Jaylon Johnson, due to a quad injury.

After Jefferson’s 10-catch first half, the Bears moved to almost exclusively deep zone coverage to take away the long ball. He was held to just two catches for 16 yards in the second half.

“They were trying to disguise it,” receiver K.J. Osborn, “but at the end of the day, they were trying to get to a cover two or a [cover] six, some type of [deep] zone. It wasn’t much man. They were able to make some plays, keep everything in front of them, but we were able to go down that last drive.”

Jefferson touched the ball only once on the Vikings’ go-ahead touchdown drive, which required 17 plays and seven minutes of game clock. Even though the offense grinded out a win against a divisional opponent, Jefferson is left wanting more for the team after they sputtered down the stretch.

“We can’t have just one touchdown in the second half,” said Jefferson, who is the fifth NFL player with at least 12 catches in a game this season. “I feel our defense played great the whole game. We just have to help them out a little bit more.”



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