Vikes weary of illegal hits aimed at WR Jefferson

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell is growing increasingly suspicious about the number of illegal hits star receiver Justin Jefferson has been on the receiving end of in recent weeks.

Vikings weary of illegal hits aimed at WR Justin Jefferson play Vikings complete largest comeback in NFL history to clinch NFC North (1:52) After being down 33 points, the Vikings complete the largest comeback in NFL history with a 39-36 win over the Colts on Saturday. (1:52) 2:56 PM ET Kevin SeifertESPN Staff Writer Close national NFL writer NFC North reporter, 2008-2013 Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008 EAGAN, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson has absorbed three illegal hits this month, including two in Saturday's historic comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts , and the team is growing increasingly suspicious about it. Coach Kevin O'Connell has brought it up, unprompted, twice in the past three days. Speaking Monday to reporters, O'Connell said sarcastically that Jefferson had "surprisingly" taken several shots from Colts players. He added: "Clearly there is an emphasis on the teams we're playing. Some of those hits, they don't just seem to be by accident at times." Jefferson twice needed medical attention in the fourth quarter Saturday. The first instance came after Colts safety Rodney Thomas hit him when he still had protection as a defenseless player, and resulted in what O'Connell called a rib/chest contusion. The second was a hit to the head by Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore , requiring Jefferson to leave the game for a concussion check. Editor's Picks Numbers and reactions after the Vikings' historic win over the Colts 2d William E. Ricks 2 Related In Week 13, New York Jets safety Jordan Whitehead also hit Jefferson in the head and neck area. There have been several other hits in recent weeks that the Vikings protested but ultimately were not flagged. Jefferson visited the Vikings' practice facility Sunday for treatment but O'Connell expressed confidence that he'll be available for their Christmas Eve matchup against the New York Giants . "I think we've got to protect him a little bit better," O'Connell said Saturday. "Great to get the flags, but ... he's too important to our league. Seems like a weekly occurrence at this point." Jefferson has played more snaps (881) and run more routes (573) this season than any other receiver in the NFL. He leads the league in receptions (111) and yardage (1,623) through 14 games.