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Anatomy of a Play: Vikings were setting up Justin Jefferson's rushing TD all season

Touchdown Wire 10/2/2022 Doug Farrar
© Provided by Touchdown Wire

When you see unusual plays, you may wonder where those odd gambits came from, and if there had been any indication that they were coming. In the case of Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson’s three-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, early Sunday morning (for us Yanks), there was quite a bit of preamble.

First, the play itself, which helped the Vikings go to 3-1 on the season with a 28-25 win:

Dalton couldn’t, but he gave it his level best. The Saints were down 16-7 until late in the third quarter.

In any event, the Vikings had been running Jefferson, their best receiver and one of the NFL’s top three at his position, on sweeps all season long — it’s just that there was very little statistical impact from those plays — at least on Jefferson’s stat sheets.

The Vikings had run Jefferson on sweep or cross motion 16 times through the first three games. He had never taken the ball on a run play with that motion, and he had caught two passes on three targets for five yards with such motions. All three targets were against the Packers in Week 1, and here’s the five-yard catch.

So, you could say that the Vikings, led by head coach and offensive shot-caller Kevin O’Connell, had been waiting all season for the perfect opportunity to give Jefferson the ball as a runner. As Jefferson had just seven rushing attempts for 16 yards in NFL career, this came as a surprise to the Saints… but it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise.

Why? Because the Vikings have been setting this up all season long — and when Jefferson gets the ball in such schemes, it can work pretty well. Ask the Baltimore Ravens, who gave up this 11-yard sweep run to Jefferson in Week 9 of the 2021 season.


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