Eagles’ Darius Slay tops Vikings’ Justin Jefferson in ‘best-in-the-world’ battle

Eagles’ Darius Slay tops Vikings’ Justin Jefferson in ‘best-in-the-world’ battle

Published September 21, 2022
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PHILADELPHIA — Justin Jefferson hasn’t been bashful about calling himself a top NFL wide receiver. Well, Darius Slay isn’t too shabby himself when it comes to cornerbacks.

Entering the Vikings’ game on Monday Night Football at Philadelphia, Jefferson talked about using it to “showcase the world what I have and my argument as being the best receiver.” He was coming off a big game — nine catches for a career-high 184 yards — in a resounding 23-7 win over Green Bay in the Sept. 11 opener.

As it turned out, Slay was the better performer Monday. In the 24-7 win at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles star had two interceptions and helped hold Jefferson to six catches for just 48 yards.

“He is one of the best in the world,” Slay said. “I am one of the best in the world, too. I was looking forward to the matchup.”

Jefferson gave Slay his props after the game, calling him a “great cornerback.” He didn’t deny that it was a tough defeat.

“Of course we (wanted) to come into this game and just dominate, especially after last week’s performance,” Jefferson said.

Instead, the Vikings (1-1) were humbled in their first road game of the season. But Jefferson plans to use “everything” from the defeat as a teaching moment entering Sunday’s game against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“The plays that were left out there, the routes that I could have won on, things that I could have done better,” Jefferson said.

After not playing a single snap from scrimmage in the opener against the Packers, Vikings receiver Jalen Reagor was in for 10 plays against his former team.

Reagor is still learning the offense after being acquired Aug. 31 from the Eagles. He made strides Monday, running for 17 yards on a reverse in the second quarter and catching a pass for seven yards in the fourth quarter.

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“I’m just getting in the rhythm,” he said. “Just doing what I can do. … It’s progressing every week. So it’s slowly but surely, but it’s getting there for sure.”

Reagor was booed each time he touched the ball Monday. He also had two punt returns for five yards.

Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson entered Monday confident about being able to block a kick, and he came through.

In the third quarter, Peterson blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt by the Eagles’ Jake Elliott. Cornerback Kris Boyd scooped up the ball and ran 27 yards to the Philadelphia 30, but the Vikings were unable to score.

“I felt like I had a good shot all week on both sides (of the line),” Peterson said. “I felt I was getting some really good get-off.”

Other than that play, there were few bright spots Monday for Minnesota defensive backs. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 26 of 31 passes for 333 yards while finding receivers wide open with regularity.

“For the most part, we just have to be closer in coverage,” Peterson said.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter, and it remains to be seen what his status will be against the Lions.

“Looking at the way he checked out, we feel pretty strongly about where (his recovery is) at,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. “But we’ll go through the phasing, and it’s very important that (it) gets handled medically through the protocol. It is a short week, so we’ll just kind of have to see where he’s at.”

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Vikings receiver Adam Thielen wasn’t targeted until late in the third quarter and didn’t catch his first pass until early in the fourth quarter. He pointed the finger at himself for that.

“The first thing I do is go look myself in the mirror, go watch the film and see what I could have done better to get open,” he said.

Thielen finished with four catches for 52 yards. His first target was on an interception thrown by Kirk Cousins with 2:19 left in the third quarter, and his first catch came with 11:05 left in the game.

Rookie Akayleb Evans replaced Cameron Dantzler late in the game, but O’Connell said Dantzler is “still our starting cornerback.”

With the Vikings trailing 24-7, O’Connell said there was a desire to give Evans, a fourth-round draft pick, some reps. He played the final 21 snaps after Dantzler was in for the first 52.

“It was just a matter of getting a young player time,” O’Connell said. “We feel like he has earned the right to get on the field.”

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