Jordan Addison looks like another elite receiver for the improving Vikings

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Minnesota Vikings lost star receiver Justin Jefferson to a hamstring injury, rookie Jordan Addison said he knew it was his chance to prove he, too, could be a top playmaker and help fill the void left by Jefferson, the reigning offensive player of the year.

On Monday night, he lived up to his words on national television.

Addison scored two touchdowns, including taking a potential interception out of the hands of a defender and racing 60 yards for a score in the final seconds of the first half, in Minnesota’s 22-17 victory over San Francisco.

“This is exactly what I envisioned,” Addison said after the best game of his short career. “Every time the ball came my way, I’m just making sure I’m making the play for Kirk (Cousins).”

Addison finished with single-game bests of seven catches and 123 yards, the latest evidence that the Vikings might have hit on another first-round wide receiver. Addison was the No. 23 overall pick out of Southern California, joining Jefferson, the All-Pro who was the 22nd selection in 2020.

While on the smaller side at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Addison has become a valuable red-zone target with six touchdowns in his first seven games. That matches the most by a rookie through seven games; the others to catch that many TDs so soon were Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase in 2021 and Vikings great Randy Moss in 1998.

“It’s exciting, though, to see his potential and the playmaker that he is,” said Cousins, the Vikings' veteran quarterback. “There is a lot of things about his ability you can’t teach and that we’re fortunate to have. ... I think he has a potential to be a very good receiver in this league.”

Jefferson is on injured reserve — and is due a contract extension — but Minnesota has, potentially, a standout duo at receiver. Addison continues to impress even the coaches, who saw enough of his college tape to make him a first-round selection.

“Physical and mental toughness,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said of Addison. “Jordan’s been everything that I hoped for from the moment I cut on the tape of his time in college, but he’s been more than that. He’s been really taking on a role within our team, within our offense. He’s earned an incredible amount of trust from Kirk and the rest of our guys.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Against a tough 49ers defensive line that includes All-Pro Nick Bosa, the Vikings didn’t allow a sack and Cousins had the time he needed to connect with Addison and eight other receivers. It was the first time this season Cousins wasn’t sacked.

O’Connell gave a game ball to the offensive line for its performance, and noted the strong play from tackles Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill all season.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Minnesota had two chances in the red zone and missed potential touchdowns each time, settling for field goals. The team was 0 for 2 in goal-to-go situations on Monday night and is tied for 26th in the league in goal-to-go, scoring touchdowns on only 50% of its opportunities.

“When you kick field goals like that down there, it drives me crazy,” Cousins said.

STOCK UP

Camryn Bynum sealed the victory by intercepting passes on San Francisco’s final two possessions. The third-year safety continues to evolve into an important piece of the Vikings' secondary, which often features three safeties on the field. The others are veteran Harrison Smith and Josh Metellus.

STOCK DOWN

Kicker Greg Joseph was perfect through the first five weeks of the season, converting four field-goal attempts and 14 extra points. But he’s struggled the past two weeks and missed two kicks on Monday. He’s missed a field-goal attempt and a point-after attempt in each of the past two games.

INJURED

Addison left Monday’s game in the third quarter with cramps, returning after he received an IV. Tight end T.J. Hockenson also limped off twice, once after Bosa fell on his leg, but he also returned to the game.

Left guard Ezra Cleveland missed the game with a foot injury and O’Connell credited the work of his replacement, Dalton Risner.

KEY NUMBER

2 — The Vikings are now plus-2 in turnover-differential in each of the past two weeks after turnovers were a big reason for their 1-4 start.

NEXT STEPS

Suddenly a lost season has some intrigue after two straight wins. Minnesota (3-4) is second in the NFC North behind Detroit (5-2) and ahead of Green Bay (2-4) and Chicago (2-5). The Vikings, the defending division champions, are 1-0 in the division after beating Chicago. Up next is another NFC North game Sunday at Green Bay.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL