Pain? The Hock Just Shrugged.
The Minnesota Vikings came into Week 10 winning four straight contests. The season looked like a lost cause after Week 5 when the Vikes were sitting at an awful 1-4 record and just lost Justin Jefferson for at least four games. Three weeks later, Kirk Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, and once again, the season was over, according to most pundits. The Vikings don’t care about that and embrace adversity.
Pain? The Hock Just Shrugged.
Nobody embraced that better than tight end T.J. Hockenson, who just looked like someone copied a wounded soldier from a Vikings movie and put him into a purple uniform in 2023. He was limited in practice all week with a rib injury and was listed as questionable coming into the game.
Perhaps he could’ve taken a week off with Jefferson and K.J. Osborn available, but they missed the contest, leaving rookie Jordan Addison as the only established receiving threat with punt returner Brandon Powell, sophomore Jalen Nailor in his first game in weeks, longtime practice squad player Trishton Jackson, and former draft bust N’Keal Harry. Hockenson was needed to pull off the victory, and he proved his elite skillset once again.
In the first half alone, Hockenson produced a stat line of ten catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first tight end in NFL history to post those numbers in a single half. And his play on the field was even more impressive. He kept taking huge hits, hung on to the football, and even lowered his shoulder to break tackles after the catch. Hockenson never hesitated during plays and only grimaced a few times after the whistle in obvious pain.
You get hit a few times, you feel it but at the end of the day, you get back up and you go back and you wanna go back just as much as it hurts you. You just want to go back in and show them, that even at 80% you can still do this.T.J. Hockenson after the game
All he did was make plays. That’s why he received a massive contract extension. When the Vikings needed him in Jefferson’s absence, he started to take off, completely living up to his contract. On multiple crucial third downs, Hockenson was the guy Dobbs went to. It didn’t take long for him to earn the trust of his new passer.
Brian O’Neill, stalwart right tackle, said after the game he saw Hockenson on Wednesday, and he didn’t think there was a chance he would play. That highlights Hockenson’s status. Before the game kicked off, there was a credible report that he would be on a pitch count as he played through pain. And indeed, the Vikings kept him out of more plays than usual, primarily on early downs and running plays. But when he was in, he was a big part of the offense.
Bruised ribs are a classic injury that could linger throughout the season, especially when he gets hit on multiple plays weekly. Hockenson caught 41 passes for 427 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the five games without Jefferson, stepping up when the team needed him most.
Jefferson could be back as soon as next week, and with Dobbs slowly starting to get more comfortable and Addison and Hockenson proving that they can be the top options in Kevin O’Connell’s offense, the Vikings could be able to take some pressure off Jefferson and feed their other weapons. Defenses will be asked to stop all three of them, undoubtedly giving some defensive coordinators nightmares all week leading up to the matchup.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt