MINNEAPOLIS — It was a scene the Minnesota Vikings could only dream of. Superstar receiver Justin Jefferson ran wild through the Green Bay Packers secondary on Sunday, hauling in a slew of wide-open passes en route to the best game of his career.
Jefferson had nine receptions for a career-best 184 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings hammered their NFC North rival, 23-7, at US Bank Stadium. But it was the nature of Jefferson’s catches that were so amazing.
Jefferson averaged 4.0 yards of separation on his 11 targets, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, and gained 138 of his receiving yards in games when he had at least 3.0 yards of separation. And on a 64-yard carry that set up a field goal in the second quarter, there wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of him.
“I thought someone was going to come from behind and tackle me,” Jefferson said. “I thought [Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander] had run with me. But he wasn’t there. It kind of shook me up, but I’m glad I got into the end zone.”
The Vikings played their first game in new coach Kevin O’Connell’s scheme, and Jefferson said he expected to see the usual double teams and cloud covers he’s grown accustomed to during his first two seasons in the league. He was surprised, however, to see that the Packers didn’t consistently ask Alexander to follow him in coverage.
Alexander was also surprised. When asked about the potential matchup, Alexander first did the zip move and then said, “All week, [he was] asking for that compatibility. But it’s not about me. It’s about the team. It’s not about me. If it were my way, you know what I would do.”
O’Connell’s scheme was partly responsible. Jefferson lined up all over the field, making it difficult to track him down. Jefferson took 41 snaps on the outside, 12 in the slot, two in the backfield and one as a tight end. Almost half of his yardage total (91) came on those plays from the slot with the other 93 from the outside, making him only the second player in the past seven seasons to accumulate at least 90 yards from both the slot and the outside.
Jefferson also went into pre-snap motion on seven snaps and was targeted on four of those plays, including a 5-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
“I definitely like the gesturing,” Jefferson said, “and just seeing the whole field. I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing it a lot more.”
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.