Vikings talk Justin Jefferson chasing history, hosting Giants after winning NFC North

The Minnesota Vikings are the NFC North Division champions for the first time in five years in the most improbable of fashions, overcoming a 33-0 halftime deficit to beat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime last Saturday.

The fans who chose to stay at U.S. Bank Stadium for the second half were rewarded with the greatest comeback in NFL history. But that’s now in the past, and the Vikings have to keep it in the past as they host the New York Giants on Saturday, a "White Out" at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings are 11-3, and are not only trying to hold off the San Francisco 49ers for the No. 2 seed in the NFC, they’re also trying to chase down the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 1 seed and a first round bye.

The Vikings need to win their final three games to finish 14-3, and need the Eagles to lose out after their Week 2 win on Monday Night Football.

"Lot to play for, so that’s really the same feeling you have every week. Even though the division thing was last week, you still feel like there’s a lot out there to go get. We’ll keep working and preparing to try to go get it," quarterback Kirk Cousins said Tuesday.

"We accomplished what we needed to accomplish, just gotta carry over that second half momentum and keep going these last couple games," running back Dalvin Cook said. "The team that came out in the second half got to come out play one against the Giants this week."

The Vikings have already been served a tough lesson in handling success. After a crazy 33-30 win in overtime at Buffalo that got national attention, the Vikings put up their worst performance of the season in a 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Kevin O’Connell hopes his team has learned from that afternoon, coming off winning a division title.

"We talked after the Buffalo game about handling success and being able to handle the emotional toll sometimes of games like that. It’s definitely something we’ve talked about this week," O’Connell said. "Tt’s two part – we acknowledge the emotional toll that it can take when you put everything you got into it, to achieve something that just so happened to clinch the division, a goal we’ve had since the beginning of training camp. But can we also acknowledge the accountability and the ownership of the things we need to get better at? That starts with me."


The Vikings have three regular season games left, and Justin Jefferson is on the verge of history. That is, if O’Connell will allow him to get there. Through 14 games, Jefferson leads the NFL with 1,623 receiving yards.

Calvin Johnson has the NFL regular season record with 1,964 yards, in a 16-game season in 2012. Jefferson needs 377 to get to 2,000, and 341 to match Johnson. He needs to average 125.6 yards per game to make history, and 113.6 to pass Johnson. He needs nine yards to pass Randy Moss's single-season receiving record with the Vikings, set in 2003.

The Vikings also need their star receiver healthy for the playoffs, and he’s taken huge hits in recent games. That’s why you might see his snaps reduced over the last three games, or once their seed is solidified.

"He’s a guy that’s going to fight me every time we try to start having that conversation. We’ll pick our spots. Justin has had an unbelievable season," O’Connell said.

Jefferson has largely made every tough catch after taking a big hit this season. He had to leave Saturday’s game to be evaluated for an upper body injury, but returned and was not on Tuesday’s injury report.

"Some of these catches he’s making, they’re just difficult to hear footsteps and not shrink back, drop the ball, not hold on. His ability to consistently hold on is just an elite trait," Cousins said. "I don’t know how you coach it, but he certainly has it. It gives me a lot of gratitude when I see him do that."


Saturday’s comeback wasn’t complete until Dalvin Cook’s touchdown with 2:15 to play. Cousins hit him with a screen pass, and he took it 64 yards for a touchdown that tied the game after TJ Hockenson’s two-point conversion.

As Cook sprinted downfield for the score, he was surprised to see right guard Ezra Cleveland running right with him. He even helped Cook get in the end zone.

"Did y’all see Ezra running? It was crazy, right? Funny thing this morning, we’re lifting weights and he comes over, I tell him I watched it and he’s fast. He’s like let me tell you something, I wasn’t even running fast," Cook joked. "I think Ezra probably helped me stay at the end and get me in the end zone. It was fun man."


The Vikings got a new face to the quarterback room on Tuesday after losing David Blough to the practice squad. They signed Josh Rosen, the No. 10 overall pick in 2018 by the Arizona Cardinals.

He played in four games for the Atlanta Falcons last season, and signed with the Cleveland Browns in July before being cut a month later. He got the call from the Vikings last week to join the practice squad. The Vikings will be his seventh NFL team since entering the league.

"Crazy, all over the place, learned a lot. But what keeps me going is football. It’s fun, so chasing reps and opportunities. Hopefully it’ll come sooner than later," Rosen said.