INGLEWOOD, CALIF. – Better late than never.

At 3-5 and their season on the brink, the Vikings made a concerted, weeklong effort to get the ball to a guy they should have been getting the ball to while losing two straight games.

The result?

Justin Jefferson, one of the NFL's best receivers, played like one of the league's best receivers, digging his team out of big holes time after time while catching 9 of 11 targets for 143 yards in a 27-20 win over the Chargers at So-Fi Stadium.

It started with offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak telling the media that the Vikings were going to get Jefferson the ball after targeting him only nine times total in the back-to-back losses to Dallas and Baltimore.

“[Jefferson's] such a great football player that it's just important that we target him, get the ball in his hands and let him make plays. He showed why he's a great player again today.”
Kirk Cousins

Seems like a no-brainer, but coach Mike Zimmer wasn't happy that the rookie coordinator shared the inside game plan that had been brewing all week.

"I did talk to Justin this week, and I told him we were going to get him the ball," Zimmer said. "I told him, 'You have to do something for me, and that's come out here and practice real hard and do the things you're supposed to do, and study and be precise in your routes, and we're gonna get you the ball.' "

Jefferson admitted he had grown frustrated, catching only five balls in losses to Dallas and Baltimore.

"I feel like any receiver would be a little frustrated," he said. "I really didn't get that many opportunities last [two] games. This game, they stressed giving me the ball, giving me the opportunity to go up and make a play. Definitely grateful for that and making those plays."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins swatted away the notion that he changed his thinking process to become more aggressive in getting the ball to Jefferson.

"Most of the times I worked him, he was not doubled," Cousins said. "Most of the times I didn't work him, he was. So I guess they didn't double him just enough to give us the opportunities to give him the ball."

Yeah, not buying that. Cousins changed and finally took some risks.

The coaching staff clearly spent the week harping on giving their receivers — Jefferson in particular — chances to make plays on 50-50 balls.

Zimmer has weekly meetings with Cousins. Though he made no ultimatums about being more aggressive, he did say of their weekly meetings, "I'll throw some hints in there, and he'll hint to me a little bit, too."

However it came about, it was a well-needed attitude adjustment for a key Week 10 game.

Jefferson had six first downs and drew an 11-yard pass interference penalty on third-and-10. He had an 18-yard catch on third-and-15 and a 21-yard catch on second-and-20. He had a 27-yard catch and the pass interference call on the touchdown drive to put them ahead 20-17. And, finally, he made a vintage Jeffersonian sideline catch in tight coverage with the Vikings facing third-and-6 and trying to run out the clock and avoid yet another late-game meltdown.

"He's such a great football player that it's just important that we target him, get the ball in his hands and let him make plays," Cousins said. "He showed why he's a great player again today."

From Zimmer to Kubiak to Cousins, the Vikings must continue this mindset going against Green Bay at home Sunday.

Jefferson is every bit as important to this team as Dalvin Cook. Maybe more.

The Vikings committed 10 penalties for 118 yards. Many times, it was Jefferson who made those mistakes go away.

Two plays after Oli Udoh's second holding call, it was Jefferson who made an 18-yard catch on third-and-15. One play after Cousins' penalty for intentional grounding, it was Jefferson who made a 21-yard catch.

And three plays after Brian O'Neill's holding penalty, it was Jefferson who made that 27-yard sideline grab on third-and-6.

"[Jefferson] always shows up," Zimmer said. "He didn't get many balls last week. I know that he was very frustrated. So, I meet with Cousins every week and kind of tell him what we need to try to do."

Better late than never.