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Vikings Star Justin Jefferson Turns 23: Ranking His Five Best Individual Games

Jefferson has had a truly incredible start to his NFL career, with over 3,000 yards in two seasons.
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Vikings superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson turns 23 today. For context: he's younger than plenty of incoming rookies, including Packers second-round pick Christian Watson.

With a resume as impressive as Jefferson's, it's easy to forget how young he is. Here are some of the things the LSU product has already accomplished over his historic first two NFL seasons.

  • First player in NFL history to reach 3,000 receiving yards before turning 23
  • First player in NFL history to reach 3,000 receiving yards in first two seasons
  • First player in NFL history with 1,400 receiving yards in each of first two seasons
  • Tied for most receptions (196) in a player's first two seasons in NFL history
  • Most receiving yards in NFL (3,016) since entering the league in 2020
  • 1,616 receiving yards in 2021 ranks 21st all-time and 2nd in Vikings history
  • Second-most 100-yard games (14) in a player's first two seasons, Super Bowl era

Jefferson heads into his third season with even bigger goals, the playoffs on his mind, and a monster second contract around the corner.

In honor of his 23rd birthday, let's rank Jefferson's top five individual performances through the first two seasons of his career.

5. Week 10, 2020: 8 catches, 135 yards against the Bears

The numbers aren't insane for this game, mostly because Jefferson didn't score a touchdown. But make no mistake about it: he was brilliant. This was Jefferson's Monday Night Football debut, his Soldier Field debut, and a rivalry game that the 3-5 Vikings desperately needed to win. Jefferson did most of his damage in big moments, catching all five of his third-down targets for 102 yards. He helped the Vikings come back from a 13-7 deficit and get the victory. After a very quiet performance in Seattle in his first primetime game, this outing announced Jefferson as a star to the entire country.

4. Week 10, 2021: 9 catches, 143 yards against the Chargers

This was another touchdown-less game where Jefferson's dominance went beyond the numbers, impressive as they were. Heading into this game, Jefferson had just five combined catches for 90 yards on nine targets over the previous two games, losses to the Cowboys and Ravens. The Vikings were 3-5 once again, and Jefferson had two 100-yard games all year. At the time, I wrote about how inexcusable it was that he wasn't being targeted more.

Then Jefferson erupted against the Chargers, beginning the most prolific four-game receiving stretch in Vikings history. He caught nine of 11 targets, had five gains of at least 18 yards, and was virtually unstoppable as the Vikings beat a talented Chargers team. 

3. Week 13, 2021: 11 catches, 182 yards, 1 touchdown against the Lions

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This was the culmination of that four-game stretch where Jefferson put up a ridiculous 577 receiving yards. After a quiet game with just 83 yards against the 49ers, Jefferson put up his career high with 182 yards against the Lions. Yes, the Vikings lost this game to a winless Detroit team on the final play, but that doesn't take away from Jefferson's performance. He had big plays of 34 and 48 yards and caught what should've been the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Lions threw everything they could at him, to no avail.

2. Week 3, 2020: 7 catches, 175 yards, 1 touchdown against the Titans

The Justin Jefferson Coming Out Party. Somehow, Mike Zimmer and the Vikings didn't start Jefferson in either of the first two games of his rookie year. He finally got the starting nod in Week 3 against the Titans and went absolutely nuclear. With no fans inside U.S. Bank Stadium, I feel very lucky to be one of the few people who witnessed this performance in person. I don't think I'll ever forget looking around at other reporters in the press box after Jefferson made catch after catch and saying 'Holy shit, this guy is good.'

First he did this against Malcolm Butler:

Then, early in the third quarter, he made what might still be the signature play of his career, breaking ankles and going 71 yards for his first career touchdown, which ended with him Griddying into paydirt.

That gave Jefferson 175 yards with 8 minutes left in the third. It's a shame that he didn't catch another ball in this game, because he could've had well over 200 yards. It's also a shame that the Vikings managed to lose, 31-30. Still, Jefferson's breakout performance in his first career start will go down in history.

1. Week 11, 2021: 11 catches, 169 yards, 2 touchdowns against the Packers

This was one week after the Chargers game and two weeks before the Lions game. Coming off a big win in LA, the Vikings really needed to beat the 8-2 Packers to get back to .500 and stay alive in the division race. In two games against Green Bay as a rookie, Jefferson had just five catches for 52 yards. He wasn't going to let that happen again.

A 43-yard gain on the Vikings' first series got Jefferson going. On their next possession, he caught a pass for 56 yards and was ruled down just shy of the goal line, setting up a Dalvin Cook touchdown. He caught his first touchdown of the game in the third quarter, then caught the go-ahead touchdown just before the two-minute warning. The Vikings won on a walkoff Greg Joseph field goal, but this game was all about Jefferson's dominance. It hits different when it leads to a win over the Packers, especially with fans back in the stands.

Honorable mentions

  • Week 6, 2020: 9/166/2 vs. Falcons (in a blowout loss)
  • Week 13, 2020: 9/121/1 vs. Jaguars
  • Week 3, 2021: 9/118/1 vs. Seahawks
  • Week 5, 2021: 7/124 vs. Lions
  • Week 16, 2021: 8/116 vs. Rams

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