By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Given their history, the Patriots’ seemingly successful move to turn wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson into a capable running back should surprise absolutely nobody. If Troy Brown could play cornerback, if Mike Vrabel could catch touchdowns as a tight end, and if Tom Brady could punt when needed, then surely Patterson could hack it as a second-string back.
In fact, it’s what the Patriots, who lost Jeremy Hill for the season in Week 1 and are still without Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, need. But I’m not sure that anybody expected to Patterson to ever emerge as a leading rusher, which is exactly what he did in Sunday night’s 31-17 win over the Green Bay Packers, with 11 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown.
“I just try to make plays when my number is called,” Patterson said after the win, New England’s sixth in a row. “Whether it’s at wide receiver or running back, I just try to go out there and show the best of my abilities.”
But he did more than show his abilities on Sunday, and his teammates were the first to acknowledge that.
“He’s done an incredible job and so much of our team is guys being in roles that maybe they didn’t sign up for that particular role, but they’re asked to do it because injuries and attrition,” Brady said of Patterson’s work at running back. “We’ve been at this for nine games plus four preseason games – 13 – plus two weeks of camp – 15 weeks. A lot of guys go down and you’re short at certain spots. Obviously, we have a lot of trust in him that when he’s got the ball in his hands, good things are going to happen. So, it ended it up being a great game for him.
“He played his butt off.”
“He’s worked really hard with the ball-handling, the reads, but boy, he runs hard,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in his postgame press conference with the media. “He runs fast and he’s a hard guy to tackle, so he’s done a great job for us. He gave us some important caries and some big yards. Honestly, I thought the opening kickoff was a big play for us. It kind of gave us some momentum there, gave us good field position and kind of set the tone for the game the way he ran on that play.
“He’s done a great job for us in a number of areas, doing different roles week to week, and the last couple of weeks carrying the ball and getting some tough yards for us. The touchdown run was a good run. Like a lot of our guys have, they just step in, fill the role that we need for them and help the team win and that’s really what it’s all about. But yeah, he was tremendous.”
Given the way that Oakland utilized him as a rusher last year — something ex-Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was quick to point out on Twitter while enjoying his Sunday of no longer coaching that disaster of a franchise — Belichick also knew that this was a possible role for No. 84, too. Even when the Patriots were downright loaded at running back back in the summer.
“He played in the backfield in Oakland. You could definitely see him running there. They had a package for him, so I saw that when we watched him before we traded for him in Oakland,” Belichick noted. “He’s a versatile guy that can play receiver. He can certainly carry the ball, return kicks and also play in other areas in the kicking game, as well. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s tough and he competes well. With the ball in his hands, he’s pretty good. But yeah, we saw it.
“We saw enough of that, I would say, in Oakland to feel confident enough to [play him at running back].”
And despite the unfamiliarity with the role, at least in New England, Patterson made it clear that he wants more.
“I said I wanted 25 carries this week, but I don’t know how many I had. I told them to give me 25, but I don’t think they gave me 25,” Patterson, who later said that he needs to tell Josh McDaniels he wants 15 carries next week against the Titans, said. “Like I said, whenever my number’s called I’m being ready for whatever I need to do on the football field.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.