Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is possibly dealing with a concussion for the second time in three weeks after he left in the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-20 loss at the New Orleans Saints. 

Stafford exited the game after appearing to hit his head on the turf and then being sacked to end that same drive. 

The Rams said Stafford was being evaluated for a concussion, but coach Sean McVay said after the game he was not sure if his Super Bowl champion signal-caller was in the NFL’s concussion protocol. 

Stafford cleared the league’s protocol on Friday after missing last week’s 27-17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals due to a hit he took in a 16-13 defeat at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 6.  

Following Sunday’s loss, McVay said he had no update on Stafford’s status. 

''I need to talk to the doctors,'' McVay said. ''Obviously we need to make a smart decision for Matthew and see where we're at with that.

"I know how he was feeling, and we made the decision it was going to be in his best interest to not have him continue to play.'' 

The Rams have lost four in a row to fall to 3-7 and equal the worst 10-game record of any defending Super Bowl champion. 

Matthew Stafford will return to the field for Sunday's Week 11 game against the New Orleans Saints after the Los Angeles Rams quarterback missed Week 10 due to a concussion.

With Stafford out and backup quarterback John Wolford in the game, the Rams lost their third game in a row, and their fifth loss from their past six outings.

Sitting at 3-6, the reigning Super Bowl champions look a long way from being contenders this year, with their playoff chances hanging by a thread when they travel to New Orleans.

Stafford, 34, tossed an equal career-high 41 touchdown passes last season in his first year since being traded from the Detroit Lions, but he has struggled this campaign, with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight games.

The Rams are currently last in the NFC West, three games behind the division-leading Seattle Seahawks (6-4). They also have, by far, the worst point differential in the division at minus 52, behind the Arizona Cardinals (minus 28), the Seahawks (plus 16) and the San Francisco 49ers (plus 35).

Jameis Winston has been unable to regain his job as the New Orleans Saints starting quarterback despite being healed from his back injury, and that isn’t sitting too well with him. 

"I lost my job due to injury, and the policy has always been you don’t lose your job due to injury," he said. "That’s what happened."

Winston started the first three games of the season for the Saints, but reportedly suffered four fractures in his back in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.  

Although he says he is healthy enough now to return to the field, coach Dennis Allen decided to stick with veteran Andy Dalton for the eighth consecutive game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. 

"I’m going to support Andy, I’m going to support this offense, I’m going to support everyone on this offensive staff the best I possibly can, and that’s it," Winston said. "Because, like I said, I wear that shirt that says 'Big team, little me' even though it hurts my heart. It hurts my soul the way things have turned out to be this year, but it is what it is." 

Allen said earlier this week that he does not think Winston will return to 100 percent this season, which is likely part of the reason why Dalton has remained the starter. He hinted earlier this week that he was considering a change at quarterback due to offensive struggle, but ultimately decided against it.  

Neither quarterback has separated himself from the other in terms of effectiveness. 

Winston completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 858 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions as the Saints went 1-2 in his three starts. 

Dalton, meanwhile, has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,559 yards and thrown 11 TDs with seven picks. New Orleans are 2-5 in his seven games. 

"I owe it to this team to be in the role that I’m in right now, to this offense, to everyone," Winston said. "I apologise to the fans. I know some of them went to see me out there. But I think winning makes a lot of things better, so we need to go out there and start with this week, get a win as a team." 

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is expected to clear concussion protocol and play in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, according to head coach Sean McVay.

The reigning Super Bowl QB missed the Rams' 27-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but returned to practice on Wednesday.

McVay indicated he expected Stafford to clear protocol by Friday, having entered on November 8 in the days after their 16-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"The doctors are making sure, everybody, himself, his family, feels good about it," McVay told reporters. "That's always been the priority, the person, the safety, the health.

"But if he is fully cleared and he and his family feel good about that, then I know he's chomping at the bit to be out there with his guys."

McVay said if Stafford was cleared as late as Friday that would not impact his availability for Sunday's game.

"It's not going to inhibit his ability to participate in practice, be a full participant in meetings, all that kind of stuff," he said. "It's just kind of following the necessary steps to fully be cleared."

John Wolford, who stepped in for Stafford but struggled against the Cardinals, did not practice on Wednesday due to a neck issue.

Stafford has a 68.4 per cent completion rate this season, passing for 1,928 yards and eight touchdowns and eight interceptions for the Rams who are 3-6 and last in the NFC West.

The Rams will definitely be without wide receiver and 2021 AP Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp who has undergone ankle surgery following an injury sustained against the Cardinals.

"It's going to give a lot of guys an opportunity to step up," McVay said. "Anytime you lose a guy like that, you never replace him.

"Cooper, we all know what a special player, special person he is. That's a big loss, without a doubt, but it will provide a lot of opportunities for other guys to get chances that they wouldn’t otherwise. You have to look at it through that lens."

Saints head coach Dennis Allen confirmed they will stick with quarterback Andy Dalton for Sunday's game, despite considering a change to Jameis Winston who is available again after injury but not yet 100 per cent.

New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen told reporters on Monday that Jameis Winston may reclaim the role of starting quarterback for their Week 11 clash against the Los Angeles Rams.

Andy Dalton stepped into the role in Week 4, and under his leadership the Saints' offense was on fire, putting up scores of 25, 39, 26, 34 and 24 – before hitting a wall, only scoring a combined 23 points across the past two losses.

With a 3-7 record and coming off a poor 20-10 loss against the 3-6 Pittsburgh Steelers, Allen indicated Dalton was no longer locked into the starting role.

He told the media everything will be on the table when the Rams roll into town, including a change in quarterback.

"I think we've got to look at everything," Allen said. "Yeah, I think we've got to look at everything. That will be a process we go through today and tomorrow as we get ready for the Rams."

On Winston specifically, Allen said part of the decision will come down to if the medical staff believe he is healthy enough to contribute.

"I feel like I think we probably have to visit with him a little bit in terms of [his health], or visit with the medical staff in terms of that," he said.

"I think Jameis said this the other day, I don't know that he's ever going to be 100 per cent healthy this season. But he's in here every day, he's in here every morning working with the trainers, getting himself ready – and I feel like he's closer to being there.

"I don't think any decisions are made in a vacuum, but we've got to try to do what we feel like gives our team the best chance to win. So that's ultimately what the decision will come down to."

Dalton has thrown 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his seven starts, while Winston has four touchdowns and five picks in three starts.

Roquan Smith saw "no weaknesses at all" as he reflected on an impressive Baltimore Ravens debut during Monday's crushing 27-13 win over the New Orleans Saints.

The Ravens defense was at its suffocating best, with Saints only mustering six points until their first touchdown came four minutes from time when the game was already beyond them.

Linebacker Smith, who was traded from the Chicago Bears last week, played a big part, making an impact early on with a tackle on Alvin Kamara to prevent a first down and force a punt.

That was one of five tackles Smith tallied over the game, though he was just one part of a defensive unit that was brutally sharp, with Justin Houston and Marlon Humphrey among the others to catch the eye.

For Smith, the game brought a realisation of just how strong the 6-3 Ravens are as AFC North leaders made it three wins on the bounce.

"It's amazing just being around so many playmakers, guys that make plays all over the field," he told NFL Network.

"I don't see no weaknesses at all. It sucks giving up that last play, that's why we've got to get better, but I'm excited about the direction we're going."

Despite the Ravens reaching an impressive points total, it was not a contest that saw the quarterbacks shine with their throwing.

The Ravens' tactic of shutting down Kamara and the Saints' rushing attack forced QB Andy Dalton to beat them from the pocket, and he largely failed in that regard, with his respectable stat-line of 19 of 29 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown arguably masking his struggles.

Similarly with the Ravens, Lamar Jackson only recorded 133 passing yards from 12 completions, but their ground attack was unstoppable and the quarterback contributed significantly to that.

With starting running backs J.K Dobbins and Gus Edwards missing through injury, Jackson looked to do a fair amount of the work himself, carrying the ball 11 times for 83 yards, and Smith felt the need to salute that effort afterwards.

"It's amazing, it's the reason that guy was the MVP before," he said.

"Man, he's special. I'm happy to be on his team, and I think it's going be a lot of great things coming forward for him and this team."

The Baltimore Ravens' defense was at its suffocating best as they sucked the life out of the New Orleans Saints in a 27-13 win on Monday.

New Orleans could only muster six points until their first touchdown came with four minutes remaining in the last quarter, with the game already put to bed.

The Ravens did it by shutting down Alvin Kamara and the Saints' rushing attack, limiting the star running back to nine carries for 30 yards and three catches for an additional 32 yards.

In doing so, they forced quarterback Andy Dalton to beat them from the pocket, and he could not deliver. He ultimately finished with a respectable stat-line, completing 19 of 29 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown, but that masked his struggles.

Dalton was sacked four times, with two-and-a-half of those being credited to edge-rusher Justin Houston, and threw a fourth-quarter interception – also to Houston, off a deflection – when his side was only down 14 and still had a chance.

The Ravens struggled similarly throwing the ball, with Lamar Jackson only tallying 133 passing yards from 12 completions, but their ground attack was unstoppable.

Jackson himself carried the ball 11 times for 83 yards, and with starting running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both missing through injury, Kenyan Drake stepped up for 93 yards and two touchdowns from 24 carries. It led to over 37 minutes of ball-control for the Ravens, with the Saints having just 22 minutes.

The Ravens are now alone atop the AFC North with a 6-3 record, while the Saints drop to 3-6, but remain just one win behind the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5).

The New Orleans Saints have plenty of experience playing without Michael Thomas, and they’ll need to draw on that again with the wide receiver scheduled for toe surgery that is expected to wipe out another season. 

Thomas, who hasn’t played since September 25, was placed on injured reserve Thursday because his dislocated toe did not respond well to rehab, Saints coach Dennis Allen said. 

"I’m not going to get into any time frames right now. I don’t know," Allen said. "He’s going to go on IR. I don’t anticipate that he’ll be able to return this year."

After missing just one game in his first four NFL seasons, Thomas was limited to seven games in 2020 and did not play at all in 2021 due to an ankle injury and complications related to surgery in summer 2021. He will have missed most of the past three seasons since his five-year, $96million extension went into effect in 2020.  

"I think Mike worked his tail off and did everything he possibly could to try to rehab it," Allen said. "This is just something that happens from time to time. It didn’t respond the way we wanted it to, so we felt like surgery was the best option to go ahead and repair it and try to get him healthy." 

Thomas had at least 92 receptions in each of his first four seasons and was an All-Pro in 2019, when he set an NFL record with 149 catches and finished that season with 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. 

His 470 receptions from 2016 to 2019 led the league, with DeAndre Hopkins in second with 393. 

Running back Alvin Kamara strongly defended Thomas. 

"I just saw a couple comments in the media about him," he said. "Basically like, ‘You can't’ trust him, he’s not being honest about his injury, why is he waiting until now to be ruled out?'

"I’m like, man, nobody knows what we go through in here. The masses get to see Sunday. It’s a lot of s--- we’ve got to go through.

"A player like that, that’s fighting to get back, not only for his team, but for the fans and for his city… for people to be talking s---, it’s like, ah, it hurts my soul to see that." 

Nobody can say that Alvin Kamara doesn’t back up his words after his New Orleans Saints shutout the Las Vegas Raiders 24-0 on Sunday.

After saying his team intended to 'whoop' the Raiders, Kamara did his part as he scored his first three touchdowns of the season while the Saints' defense limited the Raiders to 183 total yards, rebounding from last week’s prime-time loss to the Arizona Cardinals. 

"I stick to what I said," Kamara said. "We was going to go out there and beat their [butt], and we did that."

Kamara unleashed in a fiery postgame speech after the loss to the Cardinals, preaching accountability and playing "Saints football". 

"I think [the swagger] is probably on its way back," Kamara said. "We had a nice performance right there, but swag ain’t s*** if it’s not consistent.

"You can do it one time, but you’ve got to be able to string it together. We’re looking for the same type of preparation this week. I know I am." 

Next up for Kamara and the Saints is a Monday night matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. 

"Just because we had a nice game this week doesn’t mean that there’s a fall-off or taper down," Kamara said. "We’ve got to do the same thing the next week, and the next week and the next week. Put it together. That’s really what swag is. Swag is consistency." 

Kamara believes the win was especially gratifying for head coach Dennis Allen, who was fired by the Raiders four games into the 2014 season. Kamara said Allen made no mention of what a win would mean to him until he addressed the team in the locker room after the game. 

"He didn’t really say anything about it," Kamara said. "But in the locker room, he was like, ‘yeah, I lied. This game meant a lot to me'."

Even at 3-5, New Orleans are just one game behind the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons.  

"The defence was challenged this week, in terms of stepping up and playing the way they’re capable of playing," Allen said. "I thought they came out and played with energy, passion. I thought they played with swagger, which was good to see."

Andy Dalton will retain the starting quarterback berth for the New Orleans Saints despite the return to practice of Jameis Winston, head coach Dennis Allen has confirmed.

Winston injured his back in the Week 1 win over the Atlanta Falcons and initially played through the pain barrier in the following two games.

He was eventually sidelined to allow him to recover, with Dalton, signed as a backup to Winston, starting under center after the Saints' attempts to bring in Deshaun Watson were unsuccessful.

Allen explained his reasoning for sticking with Dalton, telling reporters: "Andy's gonna get the start again this week [against the Las Vegas Raiders.

"I feel like he's played well. Offensively, I feel like we're in a little bit of a rhythm. We've been moving the ball effectively, we've scored points. And so we're gonna continue down that road with Andy as the quarterback."

This season, Dalton has completed on 63.4 per cent of his passes for 946 yards and seven touchdowns, while he has been sacked four times and been intercepted four times.

Last time out against the Arizona Cardinals, a game the Saints lost, Dalton threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns but also conceded three interceptions – two of which were returned for touchdowns.

However, Allen said he was looking for offensive continuity in the coming weeks.

"What I mean by that is in the last four weeks, we're one of the top offenses in terms of moving the ball, we're one of the top offenses in terms of scoring points," he added.  "And that's really the name of the game. So, we're gonna continue doing what we've been doing.

"We've gotta do a better job of protecting the football. And if we do that, I think we can be highly effective offensively."

Allen said Dalton will keep his position over a fully fit Winston as long as the team remain coherent with the ball in hand.

"Well, look, Jameis is back healthy right now. We're gonna go with Andy as we sit here right now. And if we continue to play well offensively and move the ball offensively, Andy will stay in there," Allen said.

"There's a lot of things that we're doing really well offensively. And I didn't feel like there was any need to upset the apple cart there. We'll keep going how we are. And if we continue to do that, then we'll stay the course."

The Saints (2-5) sit bottom of the NFC South and will look to ignite life into their season against the Raiders on Sunday.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury have played down their heated exchange during a win over the New Orleans Saints.

The Cardinals snapped an eight-game home losing streak with a 42-34 victory on Thursday, as the visitors' stand-in QB Andy Dalton threw three interceptions.

For Arizona, Murray completed 20 of his 29 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, but he also made headlines through his second-quarter row with Kingsbury.

Murray appeared to shout, "calm the f*** down" at his coach on two occasions, but insisted there was no ill feeling between the pair after the win.

"The clock was running down and we couldn't get off the play that we were trying to run," Murray said. "So, it was... I guess it's my fault. I'll take it.

"We're good. We're going to make it right. We ended up scoring so that was good. But, yes, that's all I was saying, just chill out.

"It doesn't faze me, and I don't think it fazes him. We're just trying to win. [It was an] in the moment type of thing. After that, we're good."

Kingsbury shared Murray's view of the incident, adding he liked to see such levels of competitiveness from his QB.

"I mean, it's good," Kingsbury said. "I think we are working through, as an offense, where we want to be and what we want to do. 

"When you have competitors that have a level of intensity like that, I think it will keep pushing us forward."

The Cardinals' win represented their first 40-plus-point game since January 1, 2017, breaking the longest streak in the NFL of 87 games, and took them to 3-0-4 for the season.

The Arizona Cardinals snapped their two-game losing skid by capitalizing on three Andy Dalton interceptions in a 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday.

The Cardinals led 35-17 before the Saints scored two fourth-quarter TDs through Dalton passes, but the damage was done as Arizona improved to 3-4 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Arizona QB Kyler Murray, who was seen shouting at head coach Kliff Kingsbury in the second quarter, completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, along with 30 rushing yards. DeAndre Hopkins sparked his side, returning from suspension for the first time this season for 103 yards from 10 catches.

Cardinals running backs Eno Benjamin, who had 12 carries for 92 yards, and rookie Keaontay Ingram both scored TDs.

The story of the game was Saints QB Dalton, starting for the fourth straight game in Jameis Winston's absence due to a back injury. 

Dalton had thrown only one interception in his previous three starts, but gave away three, including two pick-sixes to Marco Wilson and Isaiah Simmons. He had 30-of-47 passing for 361 yards with four touchdowns, connecting with Juwan Johnson for two of them, but the three interceptions hurt.

The Saints had gone ahead early when Dalton found Rashid Shaheed with a 53-yard TD pass, but the Cardinals worked their way back with 25 second-quarter points. Ingram powered his way in for a TD, before Wilson swooped on Marquez Callaway's tip ball, followed by Simmons' interception return from the 40-yard line.

The game marked the Cardinals' first 40-plus-point game since January 1 2017, breaking the longest streak in the NFL of 87 games.

Belief is a powerful emotion.

Athletes from a variety of sports over the years have spoken about the power of self-belief that allowed them to overcome the odds and prevail.

In the world of fantasy football, where the stakes are substantially lower, it is easy to lose faith after a few bad weeks given the season is so short.

Still, even as the losses mount, it's important to not get discouraged, trust in your line-up decisions and, most importantly, remember that it's just a bit of fun.

Not everything is going to go right for all your players in every game, but with Week 7 on the horizon, Stats Perform has gone through the numbers and identified four offensive players and a defense deserving of your faith for the upcoming slate of games.

Quarterback: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys @ Detroit Lions

Prescott is finally set to return to the lineup after Cooper Rush kept the Cowboys firmly in the mix during his absence with a fractured thumb.

There may some reticence to roll with Prescott in fantasy in his first game since the season opener. 

Against the Lions, there's little reason to have such concerns. Their defense is allowing 7.37 yards per pass play, the second most in the NFL, while only the Cleveland Browns have conceded more offensive touchdowns than Detroit's 18.

Game flow could work against Prescott putting up a huge fantasy performance if the Dallas defense allows the Cowboys to build a big lead, but there's no reason to expect him to struggle on his return.

Running Back: Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Chargers

Walker backed up his explosive performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 5 with a strong showing in Week 6 as the Seahawks knocked off the Arizona Cardinals.

He racked up 97 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries versus Arizona and now gets to face a Charger run defense that has displayed no improvement despite heavy offseason investment.

Only the New York Giants (5.61) are allowing more yards per rush than the Chargers (5.56). Walker already has seven rushes of 10 yards or more this season and, if you have this exciting rookie on your roster, you can afford to believe he will deliver in a substantial way in LA.

Wide Receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Samuel was kept relatively quiet as the 49er offense endured a difficult day in Atlanta last week, failing to score in the second half of their 28-14 loss to the Falcons.

Even so, he still managed seven catches for 79 yards and his fantasy managers who may be worried about a drop-off from the San Francisco attack should stay calm.

The 49er run game sputtered in Atlanta, gaining just 50 yards, but it looked at its best on the two carries Samuel received out of the backfield. 

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan last season turned to putting Samuel in the backfield to give his offense a spark and it produced stunning results. Don't be surprised to see him do the same here.

With the Chiefs level with the Lions with 18 offensive scores allowed, a varied role for Samuel on Sunday could spell a highly productive effort on an offense that may benefit from the return of All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams.

Tight End: Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers @ Washington Commanders

The Green Bay offense is in dreadful shape, with some questioning whether it is broken beyond repair following a dismal defeat to the New York Jets at Lambeau Field.

Aaron Rodgers has called for the Packers to simplify their attack in the wake of that loss. Any huge schematic changes seem unlikely but what is probable is that Rodgers will focus on the few targets he trusts.

One such target is Tonyan, who was last week targeted 12 times, catching 10 passes for 90 yards.

With Randall Cobb on the sideline through injury, Allen Lazard and Tonyan will likely be Rodgers' favoured weapons in the passing game. Whether he can engineer an upturn in Green Bay's fortunes is open for debate, but Tonyan's place in the pass-catching hierarchy for the Packers gives him plenty of fantasy value against a Commanders defense that has allowed 12 passing touchdowns, the second-most in the league.

Defense/Special Teams: New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals

Is your faith in the New Orleans defense shaken by the Cincinnati Bengals' comeback against the Saints? Well here come the Cardinals to make everything all better.

The Cardinals managed nine points against a Seahawks team that has allowed 163 this season. Only the Lions have given up more.

On a per-play basis, the Steelers are the sole team to put up fewer yards (4.77) than the Cardinals (4.81).

The Saints' defense is not as fearsome as in days gone by, but it has the benefit of facing an utterly anaemic offense in Week 7 and is worthy of some belief as a result.

Andy Dalton is set to meet his former team the Cincinnati Bengals for a third successive season, and he could join a historic club.

Quarterback Dalton left the Bengals in 2020 after spending nine years with the team. He is Cincinnati's all-time passing touchdown leader (204).

The 34-year-old spent the 2020 season with the Dallas Cowboys before heading to Chicago and the Bears last year. He is now at the New Orleans Saints, and with Jameis Winston questionable due to back and ankle injuries, is expected to start in the Week 6 clash against his old team.

Having helped the Cowboys and the Bears to wins over the Bengals over the past two seasons, Dalton could become the fourth QB since 1950 to go 3-0 or better against the team he was drafted by.

Joe Burrow replaced Dalton in Cincinnati and was the key to their charge to the Super Bowl last season.

Burrow has completed at least 60 per cent of his passes in 22 successive regular-season games, which ties him level with Steve Young for the second-longest streak in NFL history behind Drew Brees, who went 31 straight between 2018 and 2020.

The Bengals are 4-2 all-time on the road against the Saints, their second-best road record against a single opponent, yet in Taysom Hill they face a player who made history last week. 

In New Orleans' 39-32 win over the Seattle Seahawks, Hill became the first player in the league to rush for 100+ yards on 10+ yards per carry, rush for three or more touchdowns and also throw a TD pass in the same game.

Victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could not have come in a more dramatic style for the Minnesota Vikings, who took the lead with 24 seconds remaining on Sunday and saw the New Orleans Saints endure a double doink with the last kick of the game.

The 28-25 result takes the Vikings to 3-1 for the season, with the last two wins coming by less than a single score, needing two fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Detroit Lions in Week 3.

In the opening weeks, Justin Jefferson's impact on the offense was limited. Two touchdowns and 184 receiving yards against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 did not go unnoticed, with the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions often putting an extra man on him to quell his impact.

Those two games combined for just 62 receiving yards and only 50 per cent completion when Jefferson was the targeted receiver. Against the Saints, and Marshon Lattimore, the pendulum swung in the opposing direction again.

Lattimore, one of the league's premier cornerbacks, is not a player who needs an additional defender alongside him, but he lost the matchup in London against Jefferson despite numerous opportunities to stand out – Kirk Cousins targeting his receiver on 13 occasions, more than any other game this season.

Ten of those were successful, with Jefferson notching up 147 receiving yards, including a stunning 41-yard reception that teased the sort of partnership he can have with his quarterback, and punching in a touchdown run for three yards.

That was not just a targeted opportunity, though, with head coach Kevin O'Connell detailing after the game how the plan was to always get Jefferson involved as much as possible after a frustrating few weeks.

"No matter what we had to do today, within reason, within our normal offense, we were going to get him going," O'Connell said.

"We knew he was going to be matched up against a premier player at his position in Marshon Lattimore. I have a ton of respect for him, how he plays and competes. But we wanted to give Justin some more one-on-one opps when we saw them. Obviously, it allowed him to help the other guys as well on some of those early downs."

One on one, Jefferson is a player who can win his battles with the best, as shown with his matchup against Lattimore, but he needs to be brought into the game more by Cousins. While the receptions and the yards were there against the Saints, it could, and should, have been a more comfortable match.

Cousins knows as much, saying after the game: "Twice I think Justin was open for touchdowns and we didn't connect. The plays are there to make, and we didn't connect. That's disappointing."

Jefferson, for his part, needs to demand the ball and the big plays more. Now in his third year with the Vikings offense, he has taken leadership responsibilities this season and it has shown, not letting the frustrations in the past two weeks knock him out of his stride and responding in style against the Saints.

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