Chip Scoggins
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Thank you for reading Football Across Minnesota (FAM), my weekly column that tours football topics in our state from preps to pros. You can find all the previous FAM columns right here. — Chip

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A popular new analytics trend in professional sports is to assign probability percentages to the outcome of events.

The probability that a team will win when leading by 10 points with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The probability that a quarterback completes a difficult pass. And so on.

I didn't check, but my hunch is Justin Jefferson's catch on fourth-and-18 with two minutes left Sunday had a probability of minus 1 million. A winning Powerball ticket probability. A Bigfoot sighting probability.

Jefferson sent social media into hysteria with what is being viewed far and wide as one of the greatest catches, if not the greatest, in NFL history. You, me and everyone who witnessed his One-Handed Miracle needed a few seconds afterward to process that, yes, he actually came down with the ball. It was the moment in the Vikings' 33-30 win.

People seem to share a similar opinion: I've never seen anything like it.

I asked current and former receivers — from NFL Hall of Famers to high school standouts — to give their reaction to Jefferson's 32-yard catch that saved the game for the Vikings:

Cris Carter, Hall of Famer: "You could throw that 100 times and not catch one of them. It's got to be the most difficult catch in the most difficult of situations. That's definitely one of the greatest catches in NFL history. You talk about clutch. It's definitely one of the most clutch catches in NFL history. A comeback in Buffalo. Bad weather. It's not in a Dome. Man, he didn't catch that ball. He apprehended it."

Larry Fitzgerald Jr., future Hall of Famer: "Insane concentration. He has a knack for the dramatics. He has a get-you-out-your-seat moment weekly, I feel. What's most impressive is how many ways he can beat you on the field. He has no real weaknesses in his game."

Sammy White, former Vikings Pro Bowler: "That is one of the greatest catches I've ever seen. The way his body was laid out and to come down on his back, that was sensational. You will have a few that qualify as [greatest catch ever] but that one is going to be right up there with them."

Eric Decker, Gophers great and ex-NFLer: "Best catch I've seen in my life."

Chris Autman-Bell, Gophers standout: "I was speechless. I was like, wow, he really just made that catch. I was in the training room watching it. Everyone just jumped up and started screaming. I can't even explain it."

Alex Larson, St. John's All-American: "My first thought was, that's the most impressive catch I've ever seen. Just the fact that he had one hand on the ball and the other guy had two and he stripped it out with one hand. That was one of the most insane catches I've ever seen. I was just in awe. No words."

Ron Johnson, Gophers great and ex-NFLer: "The degree of difficulty is ridiculous. On the way down, to be able to pull it in, make sure to secure it and not hit the ground. When it comes to one-handers, that's just ridiculous. In my opinion, it's got to be up there in the top two [all-time] with Odell Beckham."

Eli Paulson, Anoka senior and one of state's top receivers: "I could not believe it. I didn't know what to think. We were watching the replay. My eyes were glued to that screen, making sure he caught it. It was awesome. He was sideways. The defensive back had two hands on it and he pulled it in somehow. I wish I could do that."

Justin Jefferson went up — way up — against the Bills’ Cam Lewis to make the grab.
Justin Jefferson went up — way up — against the Bills’ Cam Lewis to make the grab.

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune, Star Tribune

You could hear it in their voices. This was one special play. Here's more:

More from Carter: "I think most people don't realize that most of your great catches, you don't believe you're going to catch the ball. You're trying to put yourself in a situation like, I'm going to stretch out and do everything that I can. Several of my greatest catches ever, I was shocked that I caught it."

White: "To catch one in traffic like Justin did, man, that's total concentration. When I was coaching at Grambling, I always told my receivers that when the ball is in the air, you've got to believe and say, 'That's my ball.' You could see that he wanted that ball. Being a receiver, you just never give up on a play. All you want to do is get your hand on the ball. He stretched up there so high and then had to fight off the defensive back for the ball. That's what made it most special."

Johnson: "The safety actually helps him catch that ball. The safety and him kind of catch it together. The safety's two hands around the ball stop it and then JJ is able to pull it from him on the way down. If that safety doesn't have solid hands, I don't think he catches that just because of the way the ball was coming in and the direction in which his hands were."

Carter: "When they leave the huddle, fourth down and 18, the DBs should be saying: Everybody bat it down. If the DB decides to bat it down, he can't catch the ball at all. Him trying to catch it is what helped Justin catch it."

Autman-Bell: "He got up and got back to it. Didn't even celebrate. That's a real pro move."

Larson: "As receivers, we work on one-handed catches and focusing on concentration. Just having that ability to go up and have body control while also having the mental focus on bringing it in. There are a lot of factors. Some things are just unexplainable, though. That catch, I don't know how he came up with that."

Autman-Bell: "I keep watching it. That's one of the greatest catches ever."

White: "He made "CBS Morning News" with that catch. That shows you how outstanding that was."

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Tommies on top — already

St. Thomas head coach Glenn Caruso addressed his team after a win earlier this season.
St. Thomas head coach Glenn Caruso addressed his team after a win earlier this season.

Alex Kormann, Star Tribune, Star Tribune

St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso views his program's transition to Division I as a three-phase process. Phase I is going quite well. Maybe even better — and faster — than anyone anticipated.

The Tommies already have clinched a share of the Pioneer Football League title and can win the conference outright Saturday at Butler. St. Thomas is in its second season in the non-scholarship D-I league.

"I've always been a big believer in process, standard and culture," Caruso said, "but if I ever had any doubt in my life along the 26 years of coaching, this year just solidified it."

The Tommies, ranked No. 21 in the latest American Football Coaches Association FCS poll, are riding a nine-game winning streak after losing their opener. Their strength is balance and ability to win games in different ways.

They rank in the top 10 nationally among FCS teams in scoring defense, total defense and rushing offense. They have won offensive shootouts and defensive slugfests. They have rallied to win in three of their past five games.

Three different running backs have rushed for 100 yards in a game. Nineteen players have combined for the team's 46 touchdowns, including seven special teams or defensive touchdowns by seven different players during the winning streak.

That's the mark of a well-rounded team.

"The word 'dynamic' in our program means one thing: That you can find a number of different ways to be successful," Caruso said. "It doesn't mean you throw the ball far or you run fast. Dynamic means finding many paths to victory and success. This team has displayed that they're very dynamic."

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He's a gamer (as in: the whole game)

Mahtomedi running back Corey Bohmert broke free for a long run in the second quarter against St. Thomas Academy on Saturday.
Mahtomedi running back Corey Bohmert broke free for a long run in the second quarter against St. Thomas Academy on Saturday.

Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine, Star Tribune

Mahtomedi senior Corey Bohmert deserved to sleep in Sunday morning after being on the field for 106 snaps in his team's 20-14 win over previously undefeated St. Thomas Academy in the Class 5A quarterfinals.

Bohmert played 56 snaps on offense, carrying the ball 46 times for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He played 42 of 48 snaps on defense at safety and had a fumble recovery. He had eight snaps on special teams as a returner.

Mahtomedi coach Dave Muetzel said the coaching staff monitored Bohmert's workload during the regular season and pulled him out of games to keep him fresh. They checked with him after every series in Saturday's game, but he did not want to leave the field.

"He wasn't coming out," Muetzel said.

Mahtomedi faces Elk River in the 5A semifinals Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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Game balls

  • Justin Jefferson: Delivered one of the best performances you'll ever see by a receiver in leading the Vikings comeback. Finished with 10 catches for a career-high 193 yards and one touchdown.
  • Patrick Peterson: Vikings veteran cornerback had two interceptions — one in the end zone early in the fourth quarter that saved points and one that ended the game in overtime.
  • Mohamed Ibrahim: Gophers running back put the offense on his back again with 178 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 36 carries in the win over Northwestern.
  • Anthony Powell: Rogers senior rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries to help team overcome 16-point deficit in second half against Armstrong in 5A quarterfinals.
  • Cooper Yaggie: St. John's sophomore linebacker intercepted two passes — returning one 61 yards for a touchdown — to go with a team-high 11 tackles and one sack in a win over Bethel in the MIAC championship game.

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He said what?!

"Everybody was screaming and jumping around. I was like, there's no way. There's no way that actually happened. I wasn't really ready to jump around and believe it yet." — Vikings right tackle Brian O'Neill on his reaction when linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered a fumbled snap in the end zone with 49 seconds left.

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Numbers to know

5: Interceptions by St. John's in a win over Bethel in the MIAC championship.

5.1: Average margin of victory in the Vikings' seven-game winning streak.

16: Points allowed by the Gophers in their past three games.

27: Combined scoring averages for the Gophers and Iowa defenses, which rank No. 4 and No. 5 nationally, respectively, in points allowed.

390: Yards needed for Mohamed Ibrahim in his final three games (including a bowl game) to tie Darrell Thompson's school career rushing record of 4,654.

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15-yard penalty

A 20-yard catch by Buffalo's Gabe Davis along the sideline as the Bills hustled down the field for a game-tying field goal in the final minute looked like a textbook case of a play that needed to be reviewed. For whatever reason, the replay booth didn't signal down to the field. The drive kept going. The NFL later admitted that the play should have been reviewed and that it would have been reversed to an incomplete pass.

That's a bad look for the NFL, and would have caused outrage if the Vikings had lost.

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Grab your popcorn

The Vikings are 8-1. The Dallas Cowboys' 6-3 traveling circus is coming to town Sunday. U.S. Bank Stadium is going to be bonkers. Kickoff is at 3:25 p.m. but downtown will be rockin' hours before that.

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An important 48 hours for …

Kevin O'Connell. The Vikings coach called Sunday's roller-coaster ride "one of the most unique games" that he has been a part of as either a player or coach. His players no doubt share that sentiment. O'Connell's midweek challenge is to get his team re-centered emotionally to prepare for another big game this week against the Cowboys.

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I've always wanted to use this word in writing, and I finally found the appropriate occasion watching that Vikings-Bills game. That classic offered Grade-A entertainment.

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Thank you for reading Football Across Minnesota. I'll publish this each Tuesday morning in time for your lunch-hour reading. I appreciate feedback so please reach out anytime.

Thanks again,

Chip (@chipscoggins on Twitter)