As the Vikings prepare Josh Freeman to be their third starting quarterback in six games on Monday night at the Giants, we use this space to venture off the beaten path with three items you might want to know …
1. No taking a knee for Patterson
Since the start of the 2011 season, the Vikings rank No. 1 in the league in kickoff return average at 27.3, nearly a full yard ahead of second place Baltimore (26.4).
Obviously, Percy Harvin was daring when it came to returning kicks from deep in the end zone. But rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has raised the bar in his first year as Harvin’s replacement.
“If I could jump up nine yards deep and tap the ball to myself, I would do it,” said Patterson, who watched all six of Carolina’s kickoffs sail over his head for touchbacks in last week’s 35-10 loss. “Coach believes in me. Every chance I get to catch it and go with it, I’m gone.”
Patterson, the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Month for September, is second in the league in kickoff return average (33.8) and the Vikings are third in the league in starting field position following kickoffs. Their average starting spot is the 23.6-yard line. Only Chicago (24.6) and Seattle (24.2) are better.
Keep an eye on Patterson on Monday. The Giants may be 0-6, but their kick coverage team ranks No. 1. Their opponents’ average starting point following kickoffs is the 19.0-yard line.
“I’m not taking a knee,” Patterson said. “Well, if it’s the end of the game and we’re up by seven or eight, but that’s about it.”
2. Quiet milestone for Loeffler
The only teams that talk about long snappers are teams that don’t have a good one. As Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said two years ago when the Vikings extended Cullen Loeffler’s contract through 2014, “as soon as you don’t have someone operating in the fashion Cullen does, you’re searching.”
Monday, Loeffler, now 32, will play in his 145th game, a team record for a long snapper, breaking the mark set by Mike Morris from 1991 to ’99. Except for missing the final five games of the 2011 season because of a back injury, Loeffler has played in every game since unseating Brody Heffner-Liddiard as an undrafted rookie out of Texas in 2004.
“It’s strange,” said Loeffler, the snapper on 10 of the 11 longest field goals in team history. “It goes by so fast. Kevin [Williams, who joined the team in 2003] is the only guy who’s been here longer. I never thought in terms, ‘Hey, this whole locker room that I’m looking at my rookie year is going to completely change over.’ I’ve really been blessed to play for the Vikings as long as I have.”
3. Rudolph does indeed exist
Tight end Kyle Rudolph set career highs for catches (nine) and receiving yards (97) against the Panthers, but it wasn’t exactly an afternoon worthy of having the game ball mounted.
“No,” Rudolph said. “Not really.”
It took a 35-3 deficit in the closing moments for Rudolph to break his previous highs. He had three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown on the Vikings’ final drive.
But, as Rudolph put it, maybe what he did at the end of that game helps get him more opportunities in the future. After all, the reigning Pro Bowl MVP had only 12 catches for 103 yards in the first four games of the season.
“Everybody knows our style of football is running the ball with Adrian Peterson,” Rudolph said. “You’d like to do more to help the team win, so anytime I’m able to get an opportunity in the offense, I want to take advantage of it. I want to put that on tape for the coaches to consider when they’re putting the next game plan together. No matter what the score is.”