Things started going the right way in their Week 9 matchup against the St. Louis Rams when Patterson was able to go over 40 yards on a return for the first time this season. The following week he was able to break one for a93-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders and then he broke a 101-yard touchdown just three weeks after that against the Seattle Seahawks.
Patterson admitted he didn’t trust his blockers enough early in the season and was trying to do too much on his own, but he has gained confidence in them to open holes for him and it has paid off.
“I just wasn’t trusting those guys and we’ve had a lot of changes on special teams,” he said. “I wasn’t trusting them as much as I should have, but I just started believing in those guys. In the meeting room and stuff they always said, ‘Just trust us. Just follow us. We’ll lead you to the promised land.’ So that’s what I do. I just try to go out there and believe in those guys.”
It always seems difficult for return men to get in a rhythm year in and year out because there is so much turn over with specials teams. The players that make up that group are usually the ones on the bubble and they often get traded or released by teams and their spots are then filled with new players.
That turnover is what caused Patterson to be more hesitant at the beginning of the year, but his confidence has grown as his teammates’ play has continued to improve. At least that is what special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has seen.
“We’ve had more of a consistent group blocking for him for the most part,” Priefer said. “Even the young guys that have stepped up have more experience under their belt. They have really worked hard on their techniques. Even in the walkthrough (on Thursday), we’re still working on technique. We’re always talking about blocking with your feet first. Moving your feet when the guys are trying to run around your blocks. The guys have worked hard.”
Patterson has already tied his career high with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single season, and with three games remaining he is looking to break that mark. All three games remaining will be played in outdoor stadiums in areas of the country known for being cold this time of the year – Minnesota and Green Bay.
When the weather gets cold, kickers often have a more difficult time kicking the ball farther, which could then lead for more opportunities for big returns off short kicks.
“I hope each kicker, they give me a chance because we always have great game plans for each and every kicker,” Patterson said. “I’m excited, though. If I get another one that’s three in one year. I never did that before and it’d be a blessing from the skies.”
This weekend, the Vikings face the Chicago Bears and their kicker, Robbie Gould, is well-versed in the art of kicking outdoors in the cold. This is his 11th year in the NFL and his entire career has been spent kicking outdoors in Chicago, which gets plenty cold in the winter.
While Gould has more experience kicking outdoors than most players would, the Vikings are still hoping for a little hiccup that they can take advantage of.
“Of course I hope they kick it short,” Patterson said. “But this week, Robbie Gould, he’s a great kicker. He can put the ball anywhere on the field, but we have a great game plan for him. We hope he kicks it short to me and not out of the end zone or anything, and hopefully he helps our game plan out.”