With a 37-yard catch in the second quarter of the Vikings' 33-26 win against the Patriots on Thursday night, receiver Justin Jefferson passed Randy Moss for the most receiving yardage in a player's first three NFL seasons.
Jefferson finished with nine grabs for 139 yards against the Patriots, holding onto a late 36-yard catch that set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jefferson has 4,248 receiving yards through 44 games, passing the mark that Moss set (4,163 yards) in 48 games from 1998-2000.
"It means a lot," Jefferson said. "It means my course of reaching the Hall of Fame is near. I'm just going to keep working, doing whatever it takes to make plays for this team."
Jefferson's last catch might have been his most impressive. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was drilled by Patriots edge rusher Matt Judon while uncorking a 36-yard deep ball to Jefferson, who held onto the jump ball despite Patriots safety Devin McCourty hitting him midair.
"I definitely thought I was going to get blasted," Jefferson said. "But that was a great ball that dropped at the perfect time. Just Kirk giving me those opportunities to go up and make a play. I'm just going to keep telling him to keep throwing those balls."
Jefferson has 1,232 receiving yards this season, building an 84-yard lead on Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill for the league lead before Miami plays on Sunday. Thursday night also marked Jefferson's 21st 100-yard game, passing Adam Thielen for fourth in franchise history.
What's next on Jefferson's to-do list?
"Winning the Super Bowl," he said.
Jefferson also took a lateral throw from Cousins in the first quarter and found Thielen for an 11-yard completion. As a passer, Jefferson has completed four of six throws for 69 yards in his NFL career.
Emphasis on the run
Dalvin Cook was running behind replacement left tackle Blake Brandel, the 2020 sixth-round pick making his first NFL start for the injured Christian Darrisaw (concussion), but head coach Kevin O'Connell still tried to establish the ground game.
Cook had more touches by halftime – 13 – than the 11 chances he got in last week's loss to the Cowboys. Cook and running back Alexander Mattison traded handoffs between Cousins' play-action passes on a drive that ended in tight end T.J. Hockenson's 1-yard touchdown catch. Cook finished with 22 rushes for 42 yards and four catches for 14 yards.
Cook had another big moment on a 37-yard throw to Jefferson. Needing to block Judon on third down, Cook assisted Brandel with a couple body blows on Judon that gave Cousins precious seconds. Patriots edge rusher Josh Uche beat Brandel for a sack in the fourth quarter.
"To have it be a win like that on Thanksgiving was really special," Brandel said of his first NFL start. "Plenty to work on, but it was really special."
Tomlinson remains out
Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson was drenched in sweat during a pregame workout at U.S. Bank Stadium, but his injured right calf kept him inactive for a fourth straight game. O'Connell said last week that Tomlinson, who was listed as questionable to play against New England, was close to returning. The veteran's next chance to play will be Dec. 4 against the New York Jets.
Defensive lineman James Lynch made his fourth start for Tomlinson.
- The Patriots tested Vikings return man Kene Nwangwu with shallow kickoffs. The speedy running back responded in the third quarter with a 97-yard return for a touchdown, his first score of the season.
- Olympic gymnast and St. Paul native Suni Lee sounded the Gjallarhorn before kickoff.
- The Patriots were down two offensive linemen in left tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) and center David Andrews (thigh). Running back Damien Harris exited in the second half with a thigh injury.
- Offensive tackle Vederian Lowe, edge rusher Luiji Vilain and defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo were healthy scratches for the Vikings.
- The Vikings elevated linebacker William Kwenkeu from the practice squad.