If a short memory is one of the gifts that is supposed to be afforded to NFL defensive backs, A.J. Jefferson's subconscious has been unforgiving.
Jefferson, the cornerback the Vikings acquired in a trade just before the start of the regular season, has been called into starting duty the last four games after Chris Cook suffered a broken forearm. Jefferson has 17 tackles in those four starts, but one play in Green Bay haunts his dreams.
Less than four minutes into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field, quarterback Aaron Rodgers took advantage of a free play when the Vikings jumped offside. Rodgers lofted a pass into the end zone for receiver James Jones, who leaped and reach over the top of Jefferson to make the interception.
"That play, I've look at it over and over and over. For me, I need to grab that ball. I didn't expect him to be there. We had an offside and all that, but the play could have been made," Jefferson said. "I don't know if I could have been in better position. That guy gets paid, too. He went up and made a big play."
Indeed, he did. Jones, whom the Vikings pursued in free agency two years ago, helped the Packers build a 10-0 lead on their way to a 23-14 win that put Minnesota's playoff hopes on life support.
Three days later, Jefferson was still frustrated over the play, saying he has watched it six or seven times and tried to figure out what went wrong. He was in position and even got his hands on the ball, but Jones was able to strong-arm it away and maintain control in the end zone.
It's the stuff of nightmares for a defensive back, but when that play entered Jefferson's dreams – proof that it has weighed heavy on his mind – it was a different outcome.
"It's been eating at me. I actually had a dream about it the other day. I was like, oh, if I would have made it, I don't know if it would have changed the outcome of the game, but that would have been one less play that I would have had to worry about," he said.
Asked if anything different happened in his dream than what took place at Lambeau Field, he said, "Oh, yeah. I picked it off, man, and ran it back for a touchdown. It changed the whole game. Seriously. Then I woke up and (realized), oh, that's not what happened. Next time I get that. I won't let go next time for sure."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after the game Jefferson was in the right position but needed to make a better play on the ball.
"You've got to make those plays," Frazier said. "You can't draw that on a board and ask for it to be any different than the position A.J. was in."
Three days later, Jefferson echoed almost those exact words.
"I've just got to work on my technique. Everything is there. I'll be in great position but it's just when the play is there, I've just got to make the play. There is nothing else I can really do," he said. "I can do my job to the best of my ability, but there's plays out there that I'm leaving out on the field that can be made. Just make the plays and it will be complete."
Then maybe his dreams will become reality.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
TD plays out differently in Jefferson's dream
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