Cordarrelle Patterson is starting to live up to his nickname of “Flash.”
For most of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, he has been anywhere between forgotten and underused on offense. That has dramatically changed in the last two weeks.
On Sunday, with leading receiver Stefon Diggs out with a groin injury and second-leading receiver Kyle Rudolph banged up with a rib/clavicle injury, Patterson got the start and continued to show not only promise, but also production over the last two weeks.
“What we try to do here is we try to get our guys to understand that they have to earn the opportunity to play. When they do those things, then they get their opportunities and what they do with it is up to them,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s earned the opportunity to play and I think it’s good for everybody on the football team to see that when guys earn their opportunities, they get opportunities to play. He’s done that and he’s been doing great. He’s obviously a weapon for us. I think he’s taking everything that we’re giving him and jumping at it and trying to do the very best he possibly can.”
In the first three games of the season combined, Patterson had been targeted only two times, catching both of them for a combined 14 yards. In those three games, he had played only 13 total snaps on offense.
That has all changed in the last two weeks, and with the way he has been playing it’s likely to continue on that path.
On Sunday, Patterson was targeted six times, catching four of them for 39 yards and earning his yardage the hard way. Many of his passes were short ones – as has become his custom – that required him to either weave through traffic or simply try to run over it.
Quarterback Sam Bradford doesn’t know from first-hand experience all the baggage and frustration that had accumulated with Patterson in the past. All he knows is what he has seen lately, and Bradford figured Patterson was in for a big day.
“I love C.P. He’s just one of those guys who has energy every day. His smile out there at practice, he’s just fun to be around,” Bradford said. “I think the guys feed off of it. He’s had a great past few weeks of practice. Like I said last week, he’s a guy that we’re going to continue to get him involved. Obviously, (Sunday) just like Adam (Thielen) with (Stefon) Diggs down, we knew that he was going to have to make some plays for us and he did.”
Patterson averaged 9.8 yards per catch, with a long of only 15 yards. His highlight was his first touchdown catch since 2014.
“That was a great throw and a great catch, both,” Zimmer said. “Obviously he’s a very talented guy and we’re trying to figure out a lot of ways to use him and when he gets these opportunities to do things it’s good. We still have a long way to go in all phases, but we’re going to get back to work.”
Patterson, himself, might have a long way to go, but he has also come a long way.
After essentially being banished from the offense last year – most of his limited snaps were in running plays – he is making a strong case the last two weeks as his opportunities have increased. Last week, it was five catches for 38 yards on 36 snaps.
Thielen had the first 100-yard game of his career and caught Bradford’s other touchdown in the win.
“Oh man, Adam. It’s hard work, hard work he put in and it makes me work harder every day,” Patterson said. “Since I got here we’ve leaned on each other for whatever and we’re always texting each other, before the game, after, during the week, to stay on top of each other and just seeing him go out there and have the day he had, you know I’m just lost for words. He’s like a little/big brother to me and when he does good things it just makes me push myself to go out and push myself and do things harder.”
Without Diggs and a limited role for Johnson, it was time for Patterson and Thielen to shine. And it just doesn’t seem to matter to Bradford who his receivers are.
After throwing for 271 yards, two touchdowns and a 123.1 rating in Sunday’s 31-13 win, Bradford is now up to 990 yards in four games, completing 70.4 percent of his passes. He has six touchdowns and no interceptions for a 109.8 rating on the season.
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“The things he’s done is mind-blowing,” Patterson said. “To come in that quick and just do the things he’s been doing, that’s really something. … I just hope he keeps doing what he’s been doing.”
We’re sure the feeling is mutual from Bradford toward Patterson.