It’s become clear there are two kinds of Atlanta Falcons offenses in 2021: The offense with Cordarrelle Patterson and the offense without him.
The Falcons were certainly glad to have Patterson back in the fold Sunday, as the receiver/running back hybrid propelled them to a 21-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Patterson picked up an ankle injury during the Falcons’ game against the Dallas Cowboys Nov. 14, limiting him to just 15 snaps on offense. He missed Atlanta’s game five days later. The Falcons’ grand total in those two losses: three points.
Patterson returned against the Jaguars and found the end zone twice before halftime.
The 30-year-old is on his fifth NFL team and is finally enjoying a breakout campaign as the focal point of Atlanta’s offense.
Coach Arthur Smith did not have theories as to why Patterson’s talent wasn’t maximized with the Minnesota Vikings (2013-16), Oakland Raiders (2017), New England Patriots (2018) or Chicago Bears (2019-20).
“I wasn’t in those other places,” Smith said Monday. “The only comparison I have is the same question that I used to get asked about Ryan Tannehill. Different players, different parts of their careers. You would think a lot of things in life, the experiences led you to this point that probably benefited him.”
Smith mentioned Tannehill because he’s received plaudits for his role in the quarterback’s career while the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans.
But as the coach noted, they’re much different players. In Patterson’s case, he bounced around the league without ever amassing gaudy stats after his seven-touchdown rookie season in Minnesota. He had game-breaking speed and not much else to show for it.
Cut to now, and in 10 games Patterson has already set career highs in not only rushing yards (411) and touchdowns (four), but also receiving yards (500) and touchdowns (five). After he began to get more touches out of the backfield in his second and last year with Chicago, the Falcons have made him a back first, even listing him as a running back on their official website — though he still wears a receiver’s jersey number, 84.
If anything, Smith took recommendations from staff members familiar with Patterson from the Bears and amplified that role.
“I don’t think it’s just one thing. Where he fits, what we’re trying to do. … Moving him around, we had a pretty good grasp at it as he evolved in Chicago,” Smith said. “Some of the coaches that we have here, he had in Chicago. So it’s a combination of a lot of things, but we’re happy he’s here.”
So are Falcons fans, who have not seen a consistent ground game for some time. Patterson became the first Falcon since Devonta Freeman in 2016 to post 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a game when he ran for 108 on a season-high 16 carries Sunday.
After the game, Patterson didn’t ask for much of the spotlight.
“With that blocking, how can I not score?” he said. “Like I said, offensive line, they did a heck of a job.”
The Falcons turn their attention to the 8-3, NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who visit Atlanta Sunday. The Bucs won their first meeting 48-25 in Week 2.