CHICAGO — Matthew Slater had a simple message for Cordarrelle Patterson after the New England Patriots wide receiver fumbled on a kickoff return early in Sunday’s game, leading to a Chicago Bears touchdown.
“Don’t forget,” Slater told the two-time All-Pro, “you’re the best kickoff returner in the league. Don’t forget that.”
He added: “I don’t think he forgot.”
No, he most certainly did not.
Patterson recovered from his first-quarter gaffe to put forth his best kick-return performance since joining the Patriots in a wild 38-31 win at Soldier Field, headlined by his electric 95-yard return for a touchdown early in the second frame. The 27-year-old — whose go-to phrase is “I’m a playmaker” — said he felt “no stress at all” after his fumble because he, like Slater, fully believes Cordarrelle Patterson is the best kick returner in the NFL.
“It wasn’t no redemption, man,” Patterson said. “I’m a playmaker, man. I hold myself accounted as the best kickoff returner in the league, man, and that’s what I stand for. Every time I’m out there, I’ve got to be aggressive and approach it like it’s my last. So every time I do something bad, it’s going to sit on my head, but the next play, you’ve just got to keep going.”
On his touchdown — one of two special teams scores by the Patriots on Sunday — Patterson credited his blockers for opening a lane for him and special teams coach Joe Judge for putting him in the correct position to make a play.
Because Chicago was kicking into the wind during that particular quarter, Patterson said, he knew booting the ball out of the back of the end zone — a strategy many kickers have used to minimize his impact this season — likely wouldn’t be a possibility.
“The wind was blowing,” said Patterson, whose six kickoff return touchdowns since 2013 lead the NFL during that span, and are tied for third-most in NFL history. “We knew he wasn’t going to kick it out, so Coach told me to play at the goal line and just be aggressive every time. The ball was kicked, it came right to me, and those 10 guys did a hell of a job setting all the blocks up for me. There’s no way I couldn’t score.”
Cody Parkey’s kickoff landed in Patterson’s arms at the Patriots’ 5-yard line. Getting key blocks from James Develin, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King and J.C. Jackson, among others, Patterson needed only to evade cornerback Kevin Tolliver — which he did with a ferocious juke — and outrun Parkey.
“When you get tackled by a kicker or a punter,” he said. “you’re going to be the laughingstock of the week.”
Parkey’s feeble attempt at a tackle failed at midfield, allowing Patterson to waltz the final 45 yards into the end zone. As he neared the goal line, he slowed to walking speed in order to high-five Jackson, the rookie cornerback who’d come up with an important interception later in the game.
“The first thing he did when I scored was say, ‘You scored because of me,’ ” said Patterson, who also had a 38-yard runback during the fourth quarter. “He did a good job, man.”
As for the fumble, the one black mark on his otherwise excellent afternoon?
“It’s football,” Patterson said. “(Expletive) happens.”