Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a long history of trying to take away the thing that the opposing offense does best. It usually works.
On Thanksgiving night in Minnesota, it didn’t.
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Along the way, he passed former Vikings receiver Randy Moss for the most receiving yards in the first three years of a career.
Moss had 4,163 yards. Jefferson now has 4,248. With six games to play.
Jefferson also extended his record for the most 100-yard receiving games in a player’s first three seasons. He has 21. Moss and Odell Beckham Jr. have 19.
For the year, Jefferson now has 1,232 in 11 games. He’s on pace for 1,904.
Far more importantly, the Vikings erased the sour taste of a 40-3 blowout loss to the Cowboys from Sunday. And the Vikings won the first Thanksgiving game they’ve ever hosted.
The victory moves the 9-2 Vikings closer to winning the NFC North for the first time since 2017. The Lions are 4-7, the Packers are 4-7, and the Bears are 3-8. Minnesota currently has a five-game lead.
The bigger goal for the Vikings is the chase for the No. 1 seed. They’ll be in the awkward spot of rooting for the Packers to beat the 9-1 Eagles on Sunday night. Some would say it’s better to see the Packers have the final nail applied to their playoff chances, because the last thing the Vikings would want to see is a Green Bay team with a nothing-to-lose mindset rolling into U.S. Bank Stadium in a single-elimination setting.
Those are all things to be determined in the coming weeks. For now, Jefferson has become the most productive receiver in league history through three seasons, with a half-dozen more opportunities to set the bar even higher.