GREEN BAY, Wis. — Midway through the first quarter Sunday at Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander broke up a pass intended for Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson. It was an innocuous moment at the time — until Alexander starting celebrating.
Alexander hit the “Griddy,” Jefferson’s signature dance, while looking back at him over his left shoulder. The move symbolized a reversal of fortunes for the two players and their teams. The Packers held Jefferson to a career-low one reception for 15 yards in their 41-17 victory, after he burned them for 11 receptions, 184 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 1.
Speaking afterward, Jefferson said he thought the celebration should have earned Alexander a taunting penalty. But he wasn’t surprised to see it after Alexander told reporters last week that Jefferson’s Week 1 performance was a “fluke.”
“He does stuff like that to try [to] get in my head and stuff like that,” Jefferson said. “It is what it is. Even from his comments leading into this game, it’s just talk. It’s just trying to give him that booster, that confidence, to go out there and guard me. We are probably going to see this team in the playoffs. So I guess we’ll see then.”
Alexander, meanwhile, said he got a talking-to from the coaches after his comments to reporters last week.
“What did I tell them? Shoot, I just told them, I’m just being honest,” Alexander said. “That’s it.”
Alexander also told the coaches he wanted to cover Jefferson more than he did in Week 1, when Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry played a high volume of zone and off coverage. On Sunday, Alexander lined up across from Jefferson 20 times, with no other Packers defender lining up across from Jefferson more than twice, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Alexander was on Jefferson on 65% of his routes as opposed to 36% in Week 1.
After holding Jefferson without a catch in the first half and to just one reception for 15 yards the entire game, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said: “I know Jaire chirped a little bit, but he backed it up.”
Alexander said he never talked to Jefferson after the game.
“I don’t think he wanted to talk to me,” Alexander said.
Jefferson was frustrated but calm while speaking to reporters in the Minnesota locker room. The Vikings are 12-4, but their losses have come by an average of 22.3 points, and their 16-game point differential is -19.
Jefferson said, “We’ve got to fix” the fact that “when we lose, we lose bad,” but added there is only so much he can do on his own.
“I finally came to the realization that I made my mark in this league,” he said, “and every single game they are not going to let me get 100 yards. They’re going to do whatever is in their power to not let me get to that type of numbers.
“And secondly, it’s tough to do that twice on the same team. To get 100-plus yards on the same team is definitely difficult. That goes to show you that they’re not doing their job if that happens. It’s definitely tough, getting one catch in the game, wanting to be a big part of the offense, wanting to make big plays for us, and not able to do that is definitely hard on myself.”
The low production might also have stalled Jefferson’s run at the NFL record books. He is 194 yards short of breaking Calvin Johnson’s mark for receiving yards in a season heading into the Vikings’ Week 18 game at the Chicago Bears.