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Analysis of the Bills’ secondary vs. Vikings star Justin Jefferson

The Bills’ reserve defensive backs gave game effort, but that won’t always win out against great players

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson had himself a day against the Buffalo Bills. Jefferson made a ton of phenomenal catches during the game, and his play helped directly swing the balance of power back to the Vikings throughout the contest. Jefferson finished with 10 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown—and what’s now being billed as the catch of the 2022 NFL season.

Let’s review some tape of Jefferson’s day against the Bills’ depleted and inexperienced secondary.

Justin Jefferson catch of the year

We’ll first review the phenomenal catch by Jefferson. Where does this one-handed catch rank for you all time—is it better than Odell Beckham Jr.’s grab against the Dallas Cowboys? No matter where it ranks, this catch by Jefferson was unreal. Take another look:

The first thing to look at is quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing the ball way over Jefferson’s head (which is why Jefferson needed to execute a one-handed catch). Jefferson is up in the air with cornerback Cam Lewis behind him. Lewis has two hands on the ball, and Jefferson has one. Even with that, Jefferson—with both legs up in the air (one of which is fully extended)—snatches the ball from Lewis with his right hand. Then take into account that Jefferson made this play on fourth down amid some very long conversion odds. Amazing.

Justin Jefferson beating perfect coverage

Dane Jackson is matched up on the outside with Jefferson. When the play starts, Jefferson runs downfield and Jackson stays with him; Jackson is right in Jefferson’s hip pocket as the ball is in the air. Jefferson has almost no space as the ball comes his way... and he catches the ball for a touchdown with Jackson right on him.

Justin Jefferson beating a hold for a toe-tapper

On this snap, Jefferson beat both Jackson and the sideline. Jefferson runs downfield, and Jackson tugs at his jersey a little bit. Then they both tussle as Jefferson looks for the ball. As Jefferson goes for the ball, he jumps in the air and makes the catch (with the sideline right near him). Jefferson gets both feet in bounds, one at a time, to secure the catch. Safety Damar Hamlin also comes in late and doesn’t make the play.

Justin Jefferson is a cheat code

Jefferson is matched up with rookie cornerback Christian Benford. At the snap, Jefferson beats Benford’s hands, and Benford tugs at Jefferson a little bit. Jefferson gets downfield, then turns left and makes a fantastic low catch with Benford still behind him. Benford goes for a tackle on Jefferson and misses it. Jefferson pivots and turns around then runs upfield. Jefferson stiff-arms Lewis as he runs up the field. Jackson chases him down and tries to tackle him from behind, and Jefferson proceeds to drag him for extra yards. On this one play, Jefferson individually got the best of three Bills defenders.

In Summary

All things considered, the Bills did a decent job covering Jefferson. Buffalo’s defense played extremely physical with him (and yes, there was some uncalled holding). On many plays, Jefferson didn’t have that much space to work with—he just kept making plays, which is what great players tend to do. If anything, the tape reaffirms that the Bills’ secondary is phenomenal—though not perfect—and most receivers aren’t able to do the things Jefferson did on Sunday.