Saturday, February 4 2023

Because I’m still not over it, I wanted to break down NFC Offensive Player of the Week Justin Jefferson‘s impossible catch in the Vikings’ win over the Bills in Buffalo. In my mind, it’s unseated the infamous Odell Beckham Jr. grab, especially considering the context, and earned Jefferson player of the week honors after he finished with a new single-game high of 193 receiving yards, which is the most in a single game for any wide receiver this season. Jefferson is the fourth Viking to win a player of the week award this season. 

The Vikings were on what they thought was their last breath. Down by four points, facing fourth down with eight yards to go — eight yards for the game.

Not only did Jefferson catch the ball, but he snatched it with one hand from perfectly in between the defender’s hands as he was going to the ground and held on. It was a great catch but also a great throw and a great playcall.

That’s been the difference between the previous regime and that of head coach Kevin O’Connell: his adjustments and his ability to scheme players open. And now that the Vikings have tight end T.J. Hockenson, they are taking advantage of mismatches all over the place.

Sunday was no exception. Here the Vikings are in their usual 11 personnel, with one running back, one tight end and three receivers on the field. Those receivers are in a 3×1 formation with Jefferson, Adam Thielen and T.J. Hockenson, attached to the formation, to one side and K.J. Osborn siloed as the ‘X’ receiver on the other side. What’s interesting here, too, is Dalvin Cook’s alignment — set back from the formation but mirroring Hockenson on the other side. It keeps the linebacker and safety on that side guessing, as the Bills are in a two-high shell zone coverage.

On the three-receiver side, Hockenson chips his defender but then releases into a route in the flat. The slot corner, who inititally runs with Jefferson, is pulled down by Hockenson’s release, and he passes Jefferson off to the deep safety — which is an extremely favorable matchup for Jefferson.

Cousins not only recognizes it, but is given time to let the play develop even with Von Miller threatening around the edge. 

The result is a team effort and a great playcall, getting receivers at different levels to pick apart Buffalo’s zone defense and getting Jefferson into a matchup he can win.

Not only did he win, but he made the most spectacular catch we’ve ever seen. 

What’s even crazier is that was par for the course in what is now being called an instant classic of a game. Later in the drive, the Vikings stalled out on another fourth-down attempt — this one at the 1-yard line. The Bills defense came up huge and put up the goal-line stand of the season… only to have a fluky fumbled snap be recovered by Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks.

But it still wasn’t over. With 35 seconds left, Bills quarterback Josh Allen led the Bills down the field and Tyler Bass needed only 29 yards to force overtime. It was a fight from there, too. But it was a fight the Vikings ultimately won, getting the victory in their seventh straight one-score game. They are now 7-0 this season in one-score games after being 6-8 in such contests last season.

And their Offensive Player of the Year candidate is leading the way.

Read more: 

FOX Sports’ NFL writers ranked the NFL’s 10 best wide receivers. Where did Jefferson end up?

 Was Justin Jefferson’s catch better than Odell Beckham Jr.’s?

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.


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