MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Jefferson is having a historically great season for the Vikings. He leads the league in Pro Bowl fan voting, and when he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the deciding points in Minnesota’s 27-22 victory over the Jets, the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium serenaded him with chants of “MVP! MVP!”
Not bad for a guy who looked like the second-best receiver on the field Sunday.
For all of Jefferson’s gaudy numbers and accomplishments, it was Jets rookie Garrett Wilson who had the eye-popping game, his latest in a series of them. He caught eight passes for a career-high 162 yards.
“He’s impressive,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said of the first-round pick. “I don’t think that’s a secret with him. He’s dynamic. He’s special. I wish he could have kept his feet in bounds. But that was amazing that he even got to that point the way he broke tackles.”
Saleh was referencing what was Wilson’s best and yet most frustrating play of the game. On the first offensive play of the fourth quarter, Mike White hit Wilson on a slant. He bounced off a tackle attempt at the Vikings’ 41, picked up a block from Denzel Mims and tried to cut inside at the 11 to reach the end zone. However, his left foot grazed the sideline and he had to settle for a 60-yard catch. “I had no clue I stepped out,” Wilson said.
While the Jets were left with a field goal on that drive, one of their five fruitless trips to the red zone, the play certainly stood out as a positive.
“The first window wasn’t there, but he kept running and trusted me and I trusted him and I threw it in the second window,” White said. “He made the unbelievable play that Garrett seems to do a couple times a game now.”
White said he also was impressed that Wilson was able to do what he did despite only three catches in the first half.
“Garrett is a fighter,” he said. “He might not have gotten the ball early but he never complained, kept running routes.”
Wilson was surprised that anyone would think he’d do otherwise. “I can’t lose myself because I missed out on a few drives or didn’t get the ball,” he said. “I can’t let that affect the rest of the game. My teammates rely on me. I want to see myself be better. To let a few drives where I don’t get the ball mess with my game would be childish of me.”
Wilson has at least 90 receiving yards in four of the last five games and is starting to put himself in elite company when it comes to comparisons.
“He’s special,” Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins said. “Some of the things he does — route-running, releases, when he gets the ball in his hands after the catch — is as special as I’ve been around. And I’ve been around some good ones. Obviously, Michael Thomas in New Orleans and I was with Brandin Cooks for a little bit [also with the Saints]. I've been around guys who when they move and what they do with the ball is special, and he’s as special as those guys or anybody in this league.”
Wilson spent some time with Jefferson after the game in what became a mutual admiration convention. “We chopped it up,” Wilson said. “I told him he’s fun to watch, to keep doing what he’s doing. He had a little bit of the same to say.”
Watching Jefferson work, he said, was impressive. “It’s cool to see it, even being on the other sideline,” he said. “It’s something I’ll remember, for sure.”
When he does, he also can recall that it was he and not Jefferson who had the better stats.