MINNEAPOLIS -- As he warmed up Sunday morning, second-year receiver Justin Jefferson wore a black T-shirt bearing four images of Randy Moss. Hours later, Jefferson dazzled against the rival Green Bay Packers, turning in a performance that would make the Minnesota Vikings legend proud.
The 22-year-old topped 100 receiving yards in the first quarter alone in Sunday’s 34-31 win over the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium and finished the day with a pair of touchdowns. His fingerprints were all over the Vikings’ biggest victory of the season.
“That’s the same type of mindset that I have, just trying to be a legend,” Jefferson said of his Moss tribute. “Trying to make big plays. Why not (model myself) after him? He’s one of the best in the game. I just love playing the game, love the rivalry and love these intense, big games.”
Jefferson certainly showed up for the occasion, pulling in a 43-yard catch from quarterback Kirk Cousins early on in the first quarter and later grabbing a deep pass from Cousins initially ruled a touchdown. Replay showed he was just shy of breaking the plane with his outstretched arm.
The 56-yard catch then set up a 1-yard rushing touchdown for Dalvin Cook to put the Vikings (5-5) up 9-3.
“He’s a good receiver and he’s shown that again and again going back to last season,” Cousins said. “He’s been there for us when we need him to be. I love getting the chance to play with him.”
Jefferson’s first touchdown of the game came in the third quarter, a nine-yard pass from Cousins after lining up in the backfield, something he said he did occasionally in college at Louisiana State University.
“I like it because you get that one-on-one with the safety or the linebacker,” he said. “But I’ve been telling Dalvin if they need to hand it off to me a couple times, I’m all for it.”
“He’s serious,” Cook, seated next to him, quipped.
Jefferson’s second touchdown came with 2:17 remaining in the fourth as the receiver leapt up, twisted his body mid-air and took a couple steps before tumbling into the end zone. At the time, it gave the Vikings a 31-24 lead — after Cook’s two-point conversion — and looked as if it might be the game-winner. But the Packers (8-3) quickly came back to tie the game on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
“I was telling them I’m not leaving today without getting in the end zone,” Jefferson said. “So (I’m) glad I got in there twice. I’ve been telling them to just throw it up to any one of us. We’re confident enough to make the catch, make a big play for the team, and I feel like we made a lot of those today.”
Greg Joseph’s 29-yard field goal on the game’s final play was the difference. Jefferson’s two touchdowns were a season high, as were his 169 receiving yards — which came on eight receptions — as he topped the century mark for the fourth time this season and 11th time in his career.
He’s now caught passes for more than 100 yards twice in as many games after sitting below the mark in the three games prior.
“I heard him say the other day that he lives for games like this,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s kind of what he is. Saw him this week during the week and talked to him a little bit, and then after the game he said, ‘I told you I got you, Coach.’ That’s the kind of guy you love to have.’”