With two touches in the first three minutes of Sunday’s 38-10 win over the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium, Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson produced 74 yards and two more reasons the Vikings shouldn’t let this still-evolving project take his skills elsewhere via free agency this offseason.
“If they want me back, I’ll be back,” Patterson said after winning the NFL kick-return title for a league-record third time and catching a deep pass in which he showed that he actually does have the ability to read the coverage correctly and react the way he’s supposed to.
“I would love to stay here. We have great guys here. I built family with these guys. I don’t want to be anywhere else. But it’s a business. If they don’t want me, I got to take my talents elsewhere.”
A first-round pick in 2013, Patterson is a free agent because the team didn’t exercise his fifth-year option on him. It was a logical decision after he caught only two passes for 10 yards last season.
“People say that motivated me and made me mad,” said Patterson, who finished with 52 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns. “Some people said it was kind of good they didn’t. But I’m a football player. I wake up smiling and go to sleep smiling. That’s just the nature of who I am. I love this game and I hope I can play 30 more years. That fifth-year option thing didn’t bother me at all.”
So Patterson is open to re-signing, but who knows what kind of offers he’ll receive. The Vikings will pursue him because he’s the league’s best kick returner, he’s only 25, and they’ve invested four years in trying to make him a receiver rather than a gadget guy who can only catch screen passes.
He took Sunday’s opening kickoff 35 yards to the Vikings’ 30. That was his only kick return of the game, so he finished with a 31.7 average. Bengals rookie Alex Erickson was a distant second at 27.9.
“I haven’t even thought about getting that NFL record,” Patterson said. “I was just thinking about Coach [Mike] Zimmer telling us all week about how we should go out with some fight in us.”
Four snaps later, Patterson caught a deep ball for 39 yards. From a five-receiver, empty backfield set, Sam Bradford took the shotgun snap and was immediately on the same page with Patterson. That hasn’t happened frequently with Patterson, quarterbacks and deeper routes over the years.
“It’s an option route,” Patterson said. “I could have run the hitch if [cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc] was playing off me. Or I could have gone [deep] if he was sitting on the hitch. He sat and I just went past him.”
With good protection, Bradford had time to deliver an accurate throw. After that, it became a mismatch between the 6-2, 220-pound Patterson and the 5-11, 190-pound LeBlanc.
“Sam did a great job of finding me,” Patterson said. “He threw it to me and I went up and made the catch.”
The Vikings scored a touchdown two plays later and never trailed.
“We’re always trying to look for ways to get [Patterson] involved because when he does have the ball in his hands, obviously he’s a special player,” Bradford said. “Maybe this [the deeper passes] is the next step in his game. … He’s a very valuable piece of the offense.”
Patterson also made a mistake on Bradford’s only interception. Patterson needed to do a better job finishing his route when Bradford threw to him at the goal line on third-and-10 from the Chicago 21.
“I just have to get to that ball,” he said. “I got to make that play.”
Patterson said he feels he has grown as a receiver this season. He also said it will be easier to continue that growth in a familiar system.
“My mind right now is focused on being a Minnesota Viking next year,” he said. “I hope it comes true.”