When Patterson wasn't playing much, it tipped off defenses that when he was on the field, there was a good chance he could be getting the ball thrown his way.
"We were getting a little bit predictable, you know?" head coach Leslie Frazier said. "He wasn't getting that many snaps early on, and when he was people were like, '84 is in the game.' We said, ‘Oh, boy that's not good.'"
The Vikings took a measured, patient approach to incorporating their rookie receiver into the offense early this season. In his first five games, he never saw more than 20 snaps on offense, starting out at five snaps in the season opener and progressing to 19 in the fifth game of the year.
In the six games since, he has only dipped below 20 snaps once, and the last two games he has played more than 40 snaps each.
"I think he's just been a maturation over the course of the season. I don't think the light bulb all of a sudden went on," Frazier said. "I just think he's been growing all along. The situation with Jerome (Simpson's arrest) thrust him into a different role. We were doing this along just to increase what we were doing with him. Now he's a starter and he's really embraced that opportunity. And we're continuing to try to find ways to get him the ball. But I think it's just a process that he's been a part of over the course of the year."
Up until the Nov. 17 game against the Seattle Seahawks, Patterson had only been targeted more than four times once. Against Seattle, he was targeted nine times. At Lambeau Field on Sunday, he was targeted a team-high 11 times and had eight catches for 54 yards.
One of his missed targets was a flat-out drop on a perfect pass deep down the left sideline. Another was a throw to the back of the end zone in overtime that was tipped by CB Davon House enough to change the path of the ball and cause Patterson to miss what would have been the game-winning touchdown.
But the biggest news with Patterson is how they used him Sunday. Frazier said they were moving him around more and a review of his plays backs that assessment.
"He's not just playing the X receiver anymore," Frazier said, referring to the split end position that he and Simpson primarily play. "We played him a lot yesterday at the Z receiver position so we've had to adjust some things."
Patterson's 11 targets show the variety of ways in which he was used and areas in which he was targeted:
"The intent is to get him the ball in space as often as we can and see if he can make plays. And down the field as well – we tried some shots with him yesterday," Frazier said. "So we want to try to get the ball in his hands and let him try to make plays. But that is the intent."
On Sunday, the intent was effectively put into action and may have started a new era of production for Patterson.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.