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Another Vikings receiving tandem takes aim at the record books

Justin Jefferson has stepped in beside Adam Thielen to give Minnesota another top duo

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Minnesota wide receivers Justin Jefferson (18) and Adam Thielen celebrate Jefferson's touchdown on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today Sports
USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The names of wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are all over the Minnesota Vikings’ record book. For a while on Sunday, it looked as if Jefferson might add another mark to his list.

After the first quarter of Minnesota’s 34-31 win over Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium, Jefferson had 104 yards receiving, making him a threat to break the team’s single-game mark of 210 yards set by Sammy White against Detroit in 1976. Jefferson came up short, but his eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns were still impressive.

White, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who played for the Vikings from 1976-85, was following the highlights at his home in Monroe, La. While his record remains safe, he knows it might not remain intact that much longer.

“I’m surprised it’s lasted this long with all the great receivers the Vikings have had,” White said Monday. “But they say records are made to be broken. I see no reason why (Jefferson) might not break it.’’

White, who set his record with only seven receptions, said Thielen is a threat to break it, as well. After all, Thielen had the third-best receiving yardage game in Vikings history with 12 catches for 202 yards at Green Bay in 2016.

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At the time, Thielen was half of one of the NFL’s best receiving duos with Stefon Diggs. But Diggs was traded to Buffalo in March 2020.

White said he was “really shocked” when that deal was made, but he has been pleasantly surprised with how Jefferson, taken with the No. 22 pick in the draft in April 2020, has blossomed so quickly to give the Vikings, again, one of the NFL’s top receiving duos.

“That’s a credit to the Vikings, having two outstanding receivers like that,” White said. “They’re big time. When they line them up on the same side, that causes a lot of confusion for the defense.”

Last season, Jefferson broke Randy Moss’ team rookie records with 88 catches for 1,400 yards, the latter being the second-best mark in NFL history for a rookie. Thielen already was in the NFL record book for starting the 2018 season with eight straight 100-yard games. It also tied him with former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson for the most overall consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

Through 10 games this season, Jefferson has 63 catches for 944 yards (fourth in the NFL) and six touchdowns. Thielen has 58 catches for 624 yards and eight touchdowns (tied for third in the NFL). With Thielen ranked 25th in receiving yardage, the Vikings are one of just three NFL teams with two wide receivers in the top 25, the others being the Los Angeles Chargers with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and Seattle with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.

On Sunday, Thielen caught eight Kirk Cousins passes for 82 yards and a touchdown and moved into fifth place on Minnesota’s all-time receiving list with 455 in eight seasons. He has been thrilled to play alongside Jefferson.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Thielen said Monday. “I don’t want to rank us, but honestly we feel really good about what we can do on the football field, and we feel really good about getting opportunities and helping this football team win games. … We put a lot on our shoulders, and we’re excited every week to get opportunities.”

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With a chance to be helped by the NFL’s first 17-game season, Jefferson could set a Vikings record for receiving yards in a season. He’s on pace to finish with 1,604, and the mark is 1,632 yards by Moss in 2003.

Thielen is on pace to 1,061 yards, which would be his third 1,000-yard campaign. Combined, the two are on pace to finish with 2,665 yards, so they could challenge the team record for a receiving duo in the same season. In 2000, Moss had 1,437 yards and Cris Carter 1,274 for a total of 2,711.

“Kirk is doing a great job of getting them the ball,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’re very competitive. They go up and get the football extremely well. Some of the catches that Adam makes are outstanding, and the same thing with J.J. They both love playing football and that’s a big attribute.”

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Adam Thielen

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Justin Jefferson

Related Topics: FOOTBALLMINNESOTA VIKINGS
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