MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Out of the doghouse and into the end zone, Cordarrelle Patterson's career renaissance kicked into overdrive on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Patterson returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown to put the Vikings in control of the game, and also had four catches for 53 yards in Minnesota's 30-24 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak.
Once thought of as the dynamic playmaker who would take over as a focal point of the Vikings' offense once Adrian Peterson was ready to retire, the 2013 first-round draft choice entered the season hanging on to a roster spot for dear life. He had two catches for 10 yards all of last season, then watched the Vikings spend a first-round draft choice on another receiver before declining to pick up the fifth-year option on Patterson's contract later in the summer.
Over the span of 10 games in a contract year, Patterson has gone from an afterthought in the offense to a featured element. In addition to his return and receiving duties on Sunday, Patterson took a read-option handoff from Jerick McKinnon to get the defense focused on him, then flipped the ball to quarterback Sam Bradford in a play that drew a penalty downfield and set up a Vikings touchdown.
"When you're involved, you can't even sleep at night," Patterson said. "Last night I couldn't even sleep because I was just so excited about today. I knew it was going to be a good game for me, man. I've got a couple friends in town and I told them it's going to be a good game for me."
He also converted a third-and-1 with a 30-yard reception that set up another touchdown, and opened the second half with his fifth career kickoff return TD, which ties him with Percy Harvin for the most in Vikings history.
"When you look what he does on special teams, when the ball's in his hands, you just feel like he's one of those guys if we can get him five, six, however many touches it is a game, you know that he's going to create something positive," Bradford said. "Anytime the ball's in his hands, he's got a chance to take it all the way."
When the Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in April and declined Patterson's contract option, the writing appeared to be on the wall for a player whose physical tools were never questioned, but whose carefree personality led to doubts about him as a consistent threat on offense. Patterson's good friend Adam Thielen, an undrafted player out of Division II Minnesota State, Mankato, had surpassed him on the receiver depth chart. His future was uncertain.
Nicknamed "Flash" both for his blazing speed and his colorful personality, Patterson first showed coaches that he was playing with a different attitude when he started covering punts as a gunner. It's one of the most thankless tasks on the field. He forced a key fumble against the Giants and gradually started earning more playing time on offense as well.
The approach endeared him to no-nonsense coach Mike Zimmer, and Patterson has seen his role grow each week.
"It's been cool to see him have success because I've seen what he does in the offseason," said Thielen, who had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. "I've seen how positive he is. It's easy for guys in his situation to not have that mindset and not work hard. But it's good to see when guys deserve it and they go out and make it happen."
The Vikings never needed Patterson more than Sunday, when they carried a four-game losing streak into a crucial home game. Patterson broke out some socks with his own likeness on them — "Last night I was packing my bag and said hey, I need to pack these," he said — and broke the game open with a kick return that gave the Vikings a 27-17 lead.
"Tonight I'm going to sleep like a baby," he said with a wide smile. "I'm going to sleep too good."
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