T.J. Hockenson cherishes 1st Vikings touchdown, hopes to have ‘many more’
Tight end was acquired in a trade with Detroit on Nov. 1
EAGAN, Minn. — T.J. Hockenson hasn’t saved a lot of balls as souvenirs during his four-year NFL career, but he made sure to hang onto one Thursday.
The Minnesota Vikings acquired the tight end from Detroit on Nov. 1, and he has wasted no time making an impact with his new team. In a 33-26 win over the New England Patriots, he scored his first Minnesota touchdown.
“It’s nice to get that out of the way,” Hockenson said. “Hopefully, there’s many more.”
Hockenson said he tries “to limit” the number of balls he keeps but that his first score with the Vikings was “special.” It came on a 1-yard catch from Kirk Cousins in the second quarter for the Vikings (9-2).
Hockenson had five receptions for 43 yards in the game. He scored his second straight touchdown on Thanksgiving, after catching a 17-yard pass for Detroit against Chicago in 2021.
“We’ll start a streak,” he said.
Thursday’s game was the first time Hockenson has been on the winning side on Thanksgiving after coming up a loser for the Lions in three previous games on the holiday.
“I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but it’s been awesome,” said Hockenson, who has 26 catches for 192 yards in four Minnesota games and 52 receptions for 587 yards overall. “I can’t say enough about what a great group of guys this is, so it’s been a blast.”
Shelley steps up
After beginning the month on the practice squad, cornerback Duke Shelley has made a difference for Minnesota.
Due to injuries, Shelley on Thursday became the fourth different right cornerback to start in the past four Vikings games. Cameron Dantzler started Nov. 6 at Washington before suffering an ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve. Akayleb Evans got the nod Nov. 13 at Buffalo but suffered a concussion in the game. And Andrew Booth Jr. started last Sunday’s 40-3 loss to Dallas before suffering a knee injury.
“I was just trying to hold it down for those guys,” said Shelley, in his fourth NFL season after playing three years with Chicago.
Still, Shelley believes his play has been good enough that he will continue to “be a factor” after the injured cornerbacks return. He was beaten a few times Thursday, but did have a key pass breakup in the end zone late in the first half, forcing the Patriots to settle for a field goal. Against Buffalo, he had a pass breakup in the end zone in overtime in a 33-30 win.
“You can’t give up touchdowns,” Shelley said. “You’ve got to make them line it up again.”
Hall of famers ice fish
Hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning visited Minnesota last January, and got two segments out of it for his “Peyton’s Places” television show on ESPN Plus.
The first will air beginning Sunday in which Manning meets up with Vikings hall of fame defensive tackle John Randle, and the two go ice fishing. The second, to air next month, involves Manning going to the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium, to recreate the Miracle at the Met catch former Vikings star receiver Ahmad Rashad made there in 1980.
“Peyton’s Places” is a product of Omaha Productions. The episode with Randle is filled with humor and begins with Manning trudging across a frozen lake to meet Randle at an ice-fishing shack. The two then discuss how Randle, who played for the Vikings from 1990-2000, went from being undrafted to the hall of fame.
According to NBC, Thursday’s game was the second-most viewed primetime Thanksgiving game ever, with a total audience delivery of more than 26 million. … Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, who had nine catches for 139 yards, welcomes playing in primetime. “These are the type of games that I love the most,” he said. “The whole world is watching you. No better time to go off.” … After being sacked seven times against the Cowboys, Cousins was dropped just once Thursday. “I can’t say enough about the protection,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said.
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