Fool me twice? Vikings’ Justin Jefferson vows not to let Lions shut him down again
Jefferson already has 88 catches for 1,277 yards and is on pace to set new career highs in virtually every stat category.
EAGAN, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson is as confident as they come. Whenever he lines up against an opposing player, he assumes he’s going to win. He usually does.
With more than a month left in the regular season, Jefferson already has 88 catches for 1,277 yards, and is on pace to set new career highs in virtually every stat category. Not many teams have been able to slow the third-year pro down to this point.
The team that’s had the most success? Shockingly enough, it’s the Detroit Lions.
Though the Vikings somehow managed to escape the Week 3 matchup with a 28-24 victory in the final seconds, Jefferson wasn’t a factor in the slightest. He finished with 3 catches for 14 yards in what might go down as the least impactful game of his entire career.
Asked how the defense was able to shut him down, Jefferson noted that Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah jammed him at the line of scrimmage with safety help over the top. That messed with the timing of the play and forced quarterback Kirk Cousins to go elsewhere with the ball. Then, even if Jefferson won 1 on 1 against Okudah, there was someone else waiting for him down field.
“We kind of have an idea of what they’re trying to do,” Jefferson said. “Especially with me.”
Because of that, coach Kevin O’Connell has a specific game plan in place as the Vikings prepare to take on the Lions again this week in Detroit. It’s a good bet he tries to establish Jefferson in the early stages of Sunday’s game at Ford Field in Detroit. Anything to get his best player into a rhythm.
There’s also some internal motivation from Jefferson to not get punked by the same team.
“If I have the film from the first time they did it, I’m not trying to let that happen again,” Jefferson said. “We know they’re not trying to let me get open in space. We’ve got something for it. That’s all I can say.”
Several other teams have limited Jefferson’s production this season: the Philadelphia Eagles, who limited him to 48 yards; the Dallas Cowboys, who held him to 33 yards; and New York Jets, who limited him to 45 yards.
As successful as those teams proved to be, though, the Lions are the only team to this point that has made it a point of emphasis to be physical with Jefferson at the line of scrimmage.
“This is the only team that did it as much as they did,” Jefferson said. “They had that plan of trying to bully me up throughout the game by just putting hands on me and trying to slow me down.”
It worked once. Will it work twice? That remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, there’s an opportunity for the Vikings to clinch the NFC North division championship this weekend with a win over the Lions. That isn’t lost on Jefferson as he prepares for the game. Nor is the fact that he’s going to have to be a big factor for the Vikings to be successful.
“It means a lot to be in that situation for the first time with me being here,” Jefferson said. “It’s definitely something special that we need to lock in on and get the job done while it’s here.”
That includes him.
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