The Falcons figured out how to use ‘alien’ Cordarrelle Patterson

The Bears could never master using the 6-2, 220-pound Patterson consistently on offense.

SHARE The Falcons figured out how to use ‘alien’ Cordarrelle Patterson
Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson runs against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson runs against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

John Amis, AP Photos

There’s no one in football like Cordarrelle Patterson.

“He is, respectfully, an alien,” Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams said.

He’s a four-time All-Pro special-teams player and probably the second-best returner of all time, behind Devin Hester. He’s third all-time with 29.4 yards per kickoff return, and his next touchdown on a kickoff will be his NFL-record ninth.

Nine years ago, the Vikings drafted Patterson in the first round as a receiver. Four different teams since — including the Bears in 2019-20 — tried to turn him into a steady offensive threat. None could figure it out.

The Falcons did.

Late in his NFL career — he turns 32 in March — Patterson finally has become an offensive weapon. Since leaving the Bears, he has been a running back, not just a gadget player, for two years in Atlanta. 

This season, only five healthy running backs average more than Patterson’s 5.3 yards per carry. Given the Bears’ woeful rush defense — they give up 142 yards per game, fifth-worst in the league — those numbers figure to only go up Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“He’s a ‘planet’ guy,” Williams said. “There aren’t many guys on the planet that are that big, that fast, that can do all that he does.”

Patterson was a special-teams star, but the Bears could never figure out how to use the 6-2, 220-pounder consistently on offense. In 2019, he had 17 rushes and 17 targets as a receiver. The next year, the Bears gave him 64 carries for 232 yards, both career highs, but he only served as the lead running back once, when David Montgomery was out with a concussion.

He played 19% of the offensive snaps in each of his two seasons in Chicago, not the return the Bears envisioned when they gave him a two-year, $10 million deal.

He signed with the Falcons for much less — a one-year deal worth $3 million — and more than doubled his career highs in carries and rushing yards in 2021. He was re-signed on a two-year deal in March.

Montgomery, who spoke with Patterson on Wednesday night, considers him a big brother.

“To me, it was always the shot that he never got,” Montgomery said. “Now he’s getting it. He’s not really proving nobody wrong, but he’s proving himself right. . . .

“You can’t really put him in a box. That’s what makes it so hard to contain someone like that. . . . He can affect the game in a lot of ways.”

In the Falcons’ last game against the Panthers, Patterson took only five handoffs as part of a rotation with three other backs, who emerged when Patterson went on injured reserve after minor knee surgery in early October. Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, the former Bears assistant, said this week that Patterson’s carries were more a function of game flow. He should continue to thrive, though — the Falcons average 160.4 rushing yards per game, fourth-most in the NFL.

“He runs inside, he runs outside, he runs powers,” Williams said. “He runs them all. So you have to defend him like a running back. And then, when they put him out wide, you have to defend him like a receiver.”

Against the Panthers, he returned three kickoffs for 85 yards. The Bears are used to seeing that; Patterson led the NFL in yards and touchdowns in both his seasons in Chicago, refusing to settle for touchbacks.

“He don’t take knees,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “That’s the crazy part. He’ll come out [from] 108 [yards deep], 109, 106, 105, 101. He’s bringing it all out. It’s so exciting to watch. . . .

“His confidence — no matter who he’s going against, he feels like he’s that guy.”

The Latest
At 2-12, the Sox matched the 1968 team for the worst start in franchise history through 14 games. They have been shut out five times.
The city is hosting its first World Coffee Championships — or the “coffee Olympics,” as one organizer put it — which cover a variety of java jousts, from tasting to brewing and latte art.
Nazar, the 2022 first-round pick whose sophomore season at Michigan just ended Thursday, is expected to play in the Hawks’ final three games of the season, starting with the home finale Sunday against the Hurricanes.
Michael Jones was outside about 11:30 a.m. March 27 in the 800 block of West 52nd Street when two people approached him and fired shots, authorities said.
While the No. 9 team in the Eastern Conference hosting the No. 10 team feels pretty meaningless in the scope of the playoffs, the Bulls and Hawks are both on the cusp of doing what they can to move big-money contracts this summer.