Turning point: Patterson’s runs get it done

Cordarrelle Patterson’s three runs all led to points, including his 67-yard touchdown run in third quarter that broke the game open.

As the Vikings prepared for the St. Louis Rams, the talk in St. Louis was how the Rams were going to stop the Vikings ground game. With a top-rated run defense, the big battle was expected to be how the Rams would contain Adrian Peterson.

In the 54-year history of the Minnesota Vikings, they’ve never had a wide receiver rush for 100 yards in a game, but with the electrifying 102-yard performance on the ground from Cordarrelle Patterson – each of the runs leading to points – the Vikings ground attack was highlighted by Patterson, not Peterson, in a critical season-opening turning point of the game.

The Vikings started the game pinned deep in their own end after a holding penalty on the opening kickoff, but, on the second play of the game, Patterson took a reverse for 12 yards, picked up a Vikings first down and got the offense moving in the right direction. The team would engineer an 11-play drive that culminated in a 52-yard field goal from Blair Walsh to give the Vikings a 3-0 lead that would never be approached the remainder of the game.

After the Rams missed a 50-yard field goal in the final minute of the first quarter, the Vikings had the ball on their own 40-yard line with a chance to get into scoring position. Patterson again provided the critical play on the ground rather than in the air.

On the first play of the drive, Patterson took another reverse and raced 23 yards to the St. Louis 37-yard line. While the drive stalled from there, it was enough for Walsh to get the call for another field goal – this one from 46 yards out – to give the Vikings a 6-0 lead.

As the game was late in the third quarter, the outcome was still in some doubt. The Vikings led 13-3 and were looking for an offensive spark to keep momentum from going in St. Louis’ direction. The fans, who had been quiet and, at times, booing the Rams during the game, were back into it looking for a stop as the Vikings took over on their own 33-yard line. Patterson broke their hearts and the Rams’ backs on the first play.

The electric receiver lined up in the backfield and took a pitch to his right. He appeared as though he would be bottled up as the Rams pinched their defense toward him, but he cut back to his left, broke three tackles, made more players miss and was off to the races – going 67 yards for a touchdown that put him over 100 yards rushing and, more importantly, blew the game open by giving the Vikings a three-score lead at 20-3.

“As soon as he got that pitch, I saw a great block by (Matt) Asiata and I threw my hands up because I knew he had the ability to take it the distance,” Peterson said. “I’m happy for him and we got the win most importantly. I’m going to sleep well on the flight back.”

That run made Patterson the first wide receiver since at least the 1970 NFL merger to score rushing touchdowns of 35 yards or more in three consecutive games. His 67-yarder was also the longest run by a wide receiver in team history, breaking Bob Grim’s previous mark from 1971.

During the offseason, much has been made about Patterson’s ability to change games as a receiver and a return man, but it was his three electrifying runs that led to 13 of the Vikings’ first 20 points, helping head coach Mike Zimmer earn his first NFL win and providing Vikings fans with a memorable (and record-setting) turning point of the game.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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