Dec. 9—In each of his first two NFL seasons, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has launched an assault on the record book. That will continue Thursday night.
Jefferson enters the game against Pittsburgh at U.S. Bank Stadium with 1,209 yards receiving this season. If he gets 41, he would join Randy Moss, who did it with Minnesota from 1998-99, and Odell Beckham Jr., who did it with the New York Giants from 2014-15, as the only NFL players with 1,250 yards in each of their first two seasons.
If Jefferson gets 147 yards Thursday, he would reach 1,356 for the season. That would enable Jefferson, who had 1,400 yards as a rookie, to break Beckham's record of 2,755 yards for the most in a player's first two seasons.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Jefferson got to 147 against the Steelers; he has averaged 144.3 yards in his past four games.
"I try to make the most plays I can whenever the ball is thrown my way," said Jefferson, who has caught 32 passes in the past four games for 577 yards, the most in team history in a four-game span . "And I just like being that momentum-changer for the offense."
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver broke Moss' rookie team records with 88 catches and 1,400 yards last season. He has 78 receptions for his 1,209 yards this season and, with the NFL playing its first 17-game season, is on pace to finish with 111 catches for 1,713 yards.
"He's not a big guy necessarily, but he plays big with long arms and has a big catch radius," said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. "He runs so well, he cuts so well, he's great after the catch running away from people. He's natural at finding the football."
After the Vikings (5-7) were upset 29-27 by previously winless Detroit last Sunday, former Vikings coach Mike Tice tweeted, "Even my sorry (butt) NEVER lost to Detroit." The tweet since has been deleted. Tice went 8-0 against the Lions while Minnesota's coach from 2002-05.
Asked this week how difficult Sunday's loss must be on Zimmer, former Vikings coach Brad Childress said, "Nothing fun about it, believe me." Childress, who coached the Vikings from 2006-10, was asked about Zimmer, who has been Minnesota's coach since 2014, being on the hot seat.
"It goes with the territory," he said. "Nobody works harder at it than Mike ... and his staff. Injuries, it's a war of attrition in this league. You might say if they didn't have the quarterback they have right now, they'd be further behind than they are."
The Vikings' seven losses have come by a combined total of 28 points. Cousins said Zimmer has been holding up well despite so many gut-wrenching defeats.
"Coach Zimmer is tough-minded, he is resilient," Cousins said. "He's been through a lot in his life. He's been through a lot in his football career. That's a guy that you're not going to knock down easily, and you can't count him out. I think we feed off that and it makes us a resilient group. ... Every time you lose, it hurts. It really hurts. It hurts him, too. But as the leader, he knows he's got to get back up on the horse each day and keep fighting."