MINNEAPOLIS - It’s hard for the Minnesota Vikings to find bright spots after a 40-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and a 1-5 start, but rookie Justin Jefferson is one of them.
Jefferson showed yet again what the Vikings have as a No. 2 receiver to Adam Thielen. He made a career-high nine catches on 11 targets for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, most of those numbers came in the second half with the Vikings playing catch-up to an 0-5 Falcons’ team.
As great as the statistics are, Jefferson would rather win.
“I don’t like coming home with a loss, I’ve never been on a losing team so I just want our swagger back. This team is known for having that swagger to win games, I just want that old team back,” Jefferson said Monday.
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After trading away an unhappy Stefon Diggs to Buffalo in the off-season for four draft picks, the Vikings used the No. 22 overall pick from that transaction to take Jefferson.
The former LSU star isn’t used to losing, and isn’t about to make it a habit. He went 15-0 with the Tigers last year on the way to the national. Two years ago, LSU lost three games. But six games into his rookie season, he and his teammates are struggling through a 1-5 start.
They’ll take that to Green Bay Week 8, a team they’ve already lost to 43-34 in the season-opener.
“It’s frustrating for all of us. No matter where we come from or what last season was for any of us, it’s frustrating to go 1-5. Nobody wants to have a losing season, nobody wants to come home after every game with a loss. It’s just a learning experience,” Jefferson said.
With his family in town to see him in person at U.S. Bank Stadium, Jefferson showed how explosive he can be. It was his third 100-yard game in the last four games. In four starts, he has 23 catches and three touchdowns.
His head coach has taken notice.
“He’s a really good player. He loves football, he loves practicing, he loves trying to get better. The most impressive thing to me is the way he goes and gets the football. He catches the ball in traffic as well as anybody I’ve seen,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
Jefferson is one of the best rookie receivers in the NFL, and he’s among the best with catches of 20 or more yards. But the stats are just numbers. The competitor in him hates to lose, and hates being 1-5.
“Of course the season is not going as we want it to go and planned it to go, but it’s just what it is now. We just need to find a way to bounce back and get our energy going,” Jefferson said.