One Veteran Viking Really Stepped up on Monday

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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson was injured 17 days ago and placed on injured reserve for four games. The timing was inconvenient as Minnesota sat in the NFC North’s basement with a 1-4 record.

One Veteran Viking Really Stepped up on Monday

From that game on, the Vikings have defeated the Chicago Bears on the road — an ugly win but a triumph nevertheless — and the San Francisco 49ers at home on Monday Night Football. Minnesota now has a 56% probability of reaching the postseason, odds that will skyrocket if the Vikings win their next two games at Green Bay and Atlanta.

Along the way, tight end T.J. Hockenson totally stepped up versus the 49ers, serving as a central figure in the middle of the field for Kirk Cousins’ weapon stable. Of course, rookie Jordan Addison made the headlines, and rightfully so, but Hockenson was essential on Monday.

Viking Really Stepped
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Hockenson needed an impactful performance, too. While he certainly hadn’t struggled in 2023, he signed a contract extension before the regular season kicked off, labeling him the richest tight end ever. Then, in the first six games, Hockenson was iffy with contested catches and drops, sending some fans to the hills, declaring his extension an overpay.

Those reactions were kneejerk, and in Week 7, Hockenson righted the ship, grabbing 11 receptions on 12 targets for 86 yards. If Cousins delivered the pigskin in Hockenson’s vicinity, he hauled it in. Plain and simple.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Hockenson led the Vikings and 49ers in target and receptions and was the difference maker for an offense requiring pass-catchers sans Jefferson. After his theatrics, the aforementioned Addison took care of the rest, slicing and dicing the 49ers mighty defense for 7 catches, 123 yards, and 2 scores.

Reporters asked Hockenson after the game what the victory said about the Vikings, and he replied, “That we can play with anybody, and that we can beat anybody. That is just what we have been trying to say throughout this entire season. If we do our stuff and we do everything that we can that we can play with anybody, and we can roll.”

Needs a Serious
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The brutal part of the Vikings schedule is in the rearview, with the Packers, Falcons, Saints, Broncos, Bears, and Raiders up next.

“Everybody had a mindset today coming into the stadium that we were going to do that, and we were going to go out and win this game,” Hockenson added.

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Among all NFL tight ends, Hockenson now ranks second in receptions and receiving yards, trailing only Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift in Kansas City. Jefferson should return in a few weeks, but until then, his mammoth target load and production are vital.

The Vikings head to Wisconsin this weekend, on deck for a date with the Green Bay Packers, their first meeting with the cheese team without Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers somewhere attached to the roster in 31 years.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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