Second-year receiver Justin Jefferson was vulnerable during the first half of the Vikings’ 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. He took five catches for 104 yards before halftime and looked like he had a legitimate chance to break Sammy White’s franchise record of 210 yards in one game.
Then the Vikings stopped throwing Jefferson. He ended the game with seven catches from 124 yards.
Why did the Vikings stop throwing their best offensive player? Well, as quarterback Kirk Cousins explained, the Lions were doing everything in their power to knock Jefferson out of the game in the second half.
“He played a lot of two-dark and cloudy Justin,” Cousins said. “It’s essentially double coverage.”
In that moment, Cousins checked in to drive back Alexander Mattison as well as fellow receiver KJ Osborne.
As for Jefferson, he just tried not to get discouraged. He understood that it was nothing personal.
“You just move on to the next play,” he said. “You won’t get every single ball, open or not. You just have to keep going and keep playing. I know the ball is going to come to me eventually.”
Still, it’s hard not to question some conservative drama calls offensive coordinator Clint Kubik. Like just before halftime when the Vikings opted to run twice in the middle instead of trying to score points.
“The coaches are going to decide what to do and we’re going to go with it,” Cousins said. “We have faith in them, and that’s their call.”
There was also time late in the game when the Vikings opted to run Mattison into third in the middle instead of throwing out Jefferson or fellow star receiver Adam Thielen.
Although the run play kept the clock running, it offered little chance of lifting the first down compared to the pass play. To make matters worse, Mattison faltered, almost costing the game to the Vikings.
Did that decision upset Jefferson and Thylen?
“I will say this,” said Thielen. “Do we want the ball to be in our hands to end the game? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, it’s not our job. Our job is to make plays when he’s there. We have a lot of confidence in our offensive coaches. They do a heck of a job game-planning and doing their job. And they’re very critical of themselves. At the end of the day, like I said earlier, we have to make plays work. It doesn’t matter what’s said Well, we have to make it work.”
Exactly the same crime was committed in the last campaign. While the ball was thrown to Thylen, not Jefferson, the end result is the only thing that matters to any player.
“If the game is in our hands, we’re going to get the job done,” Jefferson said. “We didn’t like the way the game turned out. We felt like we left some drama in there. But it is what it is. Just watch the movie and rectify your mistakes.”