If there's one silver lining that can be taken from the Vikings' dreadful 40-23 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, it's that rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had another huge day. The 21-year-old LSU product shined in the second half, continuing to establish himself as an emerging star in the NFL and a beacon of hope for this franchise.
Jefferson caught nine of 11 targets for 166 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 341 yards and three scores over his past two outings as U.S. Bank Stadium. Those happen to be the two biggest games by a rookie (in terms of receiving yards) over the past three seasons.
After a down week in Seattle (three catches for 23 yards), Jefferson got back to his big-play ways against the Falcons. He recorded gains of 49, 35, 19, 18, and 17 yards on the day. As usual, he did it an a variety of ways, winning on deep balls, intermediate routes, and short routes. Jefferson once again displayed his full repertoire: route-running, contested catches, speed, and YAC ability.
With his third 100-yard game of the season (all coming in the past four weeks), Jefferson has tied Hassan Jones and Sammy White for third among rookies in Vikings history. Only Anthony Carter (5) and Randy Moss (4) had more 100-yard receiving games as rookies, and Jefferson still has ten more games to play.
Jefferson is one of just four players in NFL history to surpass 100 receiving yards three times in their first six games.
Speaking of Moss, take a look at the leaders for receiving yards through a player's first six games in Vikings history:
- Justin Jefferson: 537 (2020)
- Randy Moss: 527 (1998)
- Stefon Diggs: 506 (2015)
Not only is Jefferson on pace to break Moss's Vikings rookie record of 1,313 receiving yards, he's on pace to break the NFL record of 1,377 held by Anquan Boldin. With 537 yards in six games, Jefferson is on pace for 1,432.
Talk about a hot start. Jefferson's play has made him one of the early frontrunners for the offensive rookie of the year award, along with quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert and fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb.
But Jefferson isn't just putting up big numbers for a rookie; he's currently fifth in the NFL in receiving yards. Jefferson's two most recent performances at home are two of the four highest single-game receiving efforts in the league this year.
The Vikings are 1-5 and all but eliminated from playoff contention. It's been a disastrous start to the 2020 season. But Jefferson at least provides a reason to keep watching and hope that brighter days are around the corner.
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