Thanks to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, the Vikings now have a better sense of how they should have used Cordarrelle Patterson’s immense physical talents amid his significant limitations as a traditional NFL receiver.

So says Mike Zimmer.

“Everybody knew Cordarrelle was an outstanding athlete, a strong runner when he had the ball in his hands,” the Vikings coach said Wednesday. “We probably could have done a better job when we had him, after watching [the Patriots].”

Patterson has 50 touches on offense this season heading into Sunday’s game against his former team at Gillette Stadium. He has more rushes in 11 games as a Patriot (37) than he had in 64 games as a Viking (31).

Zimmer was around for 48 of Patterson’s regular-season games as a Viking. His offensive coordinator for 39 of those games was Norv Turner. Pat Shurmur handled the last nine games in 2016 when Turner quit during the season.

Bill Musgrave was Patterson’s offensive coordinator in 2013. As a rookie that year, Patterson had 12 rushes for 158 yards (13.2) and three touchdowns.

In 39 games under Turner, Patterson had 16 rushes for 147 yards (9.2). In nine games under Shurmur, Patterson had three carries for 28 yards (9.3).

In 11 games under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Patterson has 37 carries for 156 yards (4.2 average) and one touchdown. He has 13 catches for 120 yards and two TDs.

And as a kick returner, the three-time NFL kick return champion still has it. In 17 returns, he’s averaging 30.9 yards with one touchdown.

There have been times when the Patriots have used Patterson as a traditional between-the-tackles running back.

“We tinkered around with that,” Zimmer said. “But we had Adrian [Peterson] at the time. You’d [have to] take him out and put [Patterson] in. But I still think we could have used him more in those kinds of ways, yes.”

Zimmer was even stronger on the subject while on a conference call with Patriots reporters.

“Quite honestly,” he said, “they’re using him way better than we did.”

Belichick’s many schemes

Zimmer was asked what makes the five-time Super Bowl champion Belichick such a successful defensive tactician.

“They have a lot of different personnel groups and they use them in a lot of different ways,” Zimmer said. “Each week seems to be a different type of game plan based on who they’re going against. They’re always going to try to make you beat them lefthanded if they can. You know what I mean? If you’re righthanded, they want you to win lefthanded. I think that’s got a lot to do with it.”

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins echoed those sentiments, as well as Zimmer’s admiration for Belichick’s ability to get the Patriots to consistently play with discipline.

“They don’t beat themselves,” Cousins said. “They’re going to make you beat them, as opposed to them making mistakes and giving you a gift from time to time.”

Passing Shula in … 2023?

A victory Sunday would give Belichick his 18th consecutive winning season and his 250th win as Patriots coach, including 27 playoff victories. Overall, he’s 286-132 (including 28-11 in the postseason).

When it comes to regular-season victories, Belichick’s 258 ranks third behind only Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318).

Belichick, 66, has averaged 12 wins the past 17 full seasons. If he stayed in coaching long enough and maintained that pace, he would pass Shula during the 2023 season. Brady would be “only” 46.

Rhodes, Diggs miss practice

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who left Sunday’s victory over Green Bay because of a hamstring injury, did not practice. Wideout Stefon Diggs (knee) was also out, as were tight end David Morgan (knee) and receiver Chad Beebe (hamstring).

Limited were linebacker Ben Gedeon, who is progressing through concussion protocol, and receiver Adam Thielen (calf).