At some point in the second half of the Minnesota Vikings’ 30-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks, the jumbotron camera found Justin Jefferson dancing on the sidelines. It took him a second, but he eventually looked up to the big screen and noticed it was on him. Jefferson does what he always does when he’s in the spotlight: He kept doing his thing. At that moment, he had to have known that the Vikings had a good chance to win this game.
On a team with an old-school coach and a reserved quarterback, the Vikings need his energy. And for once this year, the game didn’t come down to the wire.
Their victory almost felt sealed when Greg Joseph hit his second field goal to put them up 27-17 early in the fourth quarter, a surprise to anyone who knows Minnesota’s history with Seattle. This was their first victory over the Seahawks since 2009, and they had lost three straight in Seattle in the last three years. What a difference playing in Minneapolis makes.
“We couldn’t wait to get home,” said Adam Thielen.
ESPN gave the Seahawks a 75% chance to win the game when they were up 17-7 with 10:30 to go in the second quarter. Seattle had marched down the field and scored on their opening drive, but the Vikings looked methodical in their first drive and tied it 7-7. The Seahawks had landed the first punch, but Minnesota had shown that not only could they absorb the blow, but they could throw a haymaker of their own.
However, things looked dicey when Chris Carson’s 30-yard run capped a six-play, 76-yard drive to put Seattle up 17-7 early in the second quarter. But the Vikings’ defense tightened up, Thielen reeled in a touchdown at the end of the second quarter to bring it within three, and Jefferson’s first touchdown in front of the Purple faithful put Minnesota up 21-17 entering halftime.
“It was crazy,” Jefferson said. “It was so energetic. I was waiting for that moment for a long time now.”
“Fans love the griddy,” Thielen said, laughing.
It’s fitting that it was Jefferson who turned the tide in the game. He seems to be doing that in the Vikings’ locker room as well. Kirk Cousins’ locker is next to Jefferson’s now (“He has some boxes stacked up at his locker,” said Cousins, “He’s gotta clean those out, but he’s been great”), and Jefferson’s attitude seems to be rubbing off on his quarterback in some capacity.
“He has a little more swag to him this year,” said Alexander Mattison, who was replacing an injured Dalvin Cook and had 112 yards on 26 carries. “Being around Jet in the locker room… he has a little more swag to him.”
“Some of the stuff he says, it’s pretty funny just coming from him,” Mattison continued. “He’s definitely opened up a little bit, and it’s awesome to see.”
That’s probably a perfect summation of Cousins’ swagger. After all, when Cousins was in Washington, he said that Kyle Shanahan told him his jersey looked like a Halloween costume. But when players started giving him a hard time about his facemask and how he wore his socks, Shanahan had his back. “Kyle cut him off and said, ‘No, his swag is having no swag,’” recalled Cousins. “I like it that way. I kind of laugh because there’s a hint of truth in the joke.”
Look, Cousins is never going to bring the kind of energy that Jefferson does. But if he can find K.J. Osborn for a big gain with the Seattle defense bearing down on him and continue to move the Vikings’ offense up and down the field by reading the defense pre-snap and getting the ball out early, they’re in good hands. He’s not just relying on Thielen and Jefferson, either. Osborn has emerged as a reliable target, and he’s gone to Tyler Conklin as a safety blanket.
Beating the Seahawks exercises some demons, especially after they were a fourth-and-inches conversion from winning in Seattle last year. So does Joseph’s perfect day a week after pushing the game-winning kick right against the Arizona Cardinals. But, more importantly, they won this game by a significant margin seven days after Mike Zimmer said he felt good about the state of this team despite losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 27-24 in overtime and the Cardinals 34-33 as time expired.
The Vikings were the better team on Sunday; nobody can argue differently. They may have beaten themselves in Cincinnati and lost a game they probably should have won in Glendale, but they’re still in this. By winning so handily, they look like they can hang with the best teams in the league. And it gave Jefferson room dance on the sidelines, something they all feed off of.