By Matthew Asher

There’s always at least one player every NFL team pays attention to when his team plays because he’s often the key to a team’s victory or defeat. When you hear the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson is that person. However, with his current suspension, the new person to key in on is Cordarrelle Patterson. as he’s responsible for leading the Vikings in nearly every offensive category.

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Obviously, with Minnesota’s recent quarterback issues over the last several seasons, their running game has had to pick up most of the slack. As mentioned earlier this week, Minnesota’s offense is currently among the worst in the NFL as they rank in the bottom 10 in most offensive categories. What’s weird about the offensive numbers is that short of throwing the ball, Patterson either leads the team or is second in almost all the categories.

Who is Patterson?

He’s a second year player from the University of Tennessee. While he is officially listed as a wide receiver, the 23-year old also returns kickoffs and has run the ball quite well. In his 19 games playing in the NFL, Patterson has picked up 2,449 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and returning) to go along with 10 total touchdowns. And if you’re wondering, he’s scored at least two touchdowns in each of the three categories so he’s not just a one trick pony.

Week 1 St. Louis Win

This season, Patterson has already racked up 429 all-purpose yards and one touchdown. In Minnesota’s Week 1, 34-6 win against the Rams, he had just eight touches, but just like Atlanta’s Antone Smith, he made the most of them. On three rushing attempts, Patterson picked up 102 yards and one touchdown coming off a 67-yard run. For reference, Adrian Peterson has run the ball 21 times for just 75 yards and no touchdowns so far. Add in Patterson’s receiving and returning numbers and he finished the game with 176 total yards, averaging 22 yards per touch.

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Week 2 New England Loss

In the two Minnesota losses this season, the team has scored just 16 points and just one touchdown. Against New England in Week 2, Patterson didn’t attempt a single rush. He caught four passes totaling 56 yards and returned just one kickoff for 23 yards bringing his weekly total to five touches, 79 yards to average 15.8 yards per touch.

Week 3 New Orleans Loss

Against the Saints it was more of the same. Patterson did rush the ball once against New Orleans, but it was for a loss of 7 yards. He also caught four passes for 61 yards, second only to Greg Jennings’ five catches for 70 yards. Teddy Bridgewater spent most of the game as quarterback this week. Because this is Bridgewater’s first time playing in the NFL, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the passing game suffered a little. Unlike the Patriot game, Patterson did a good job returning kicks as he picked up 120 yards on four touches, giving him 174 yards on nine touches for an average of 19.3 yards per touch. 

So for the Falcons this week, the game plan should be simple: don’t let Patterson run the ball and keep pressuring the quarterback to limit his receiving chances. If Patterson wants to try to beat the Falcons returning kicks, he’s welcome to try since Atlanta now officially has the best kick returner in NFL history: Devin Hester. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 pm ET. #RiseUp

For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.

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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.