ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — When the New England Patriots took the field Monday night, it became clear why they didn’t feel the need to add another running back in the wake of Sony Michel’s knee injury.
As it turns out, they already had one. He just usually plays a different position.
With Michel unavailable, wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson — not James White or Kenjon Barner — started at running back against the Buffalo Bills, lining up in an I-formation behind quarterback Tom Brady and fullback James Develin on New England’s first offensive play.
Patterson wasn’t just a decoy, either. He carried the ball a career-high 10 times in the Patriots’ 25-6 victory at New Era Field, leading all Patriots rushers with 38 yards.
“C.P. is a great athlete, and he does a great job with the ball in his hands, so we were able to get it to him a few times,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “He’s done a great job in the return game and on some other plays that he had the chance to run it. It looked like he had a couple of solid runs out there. We’re a little light at the running back position, so we needed him to step up, and he did.”
The running back position isn’t entirely new for Patterson, who often lined up there for the Oakland Raiders last season. He’d never carried the ball more than three times in a game before Monday, though, and had tallied just seven rushing attempts over the first seven weeks of this season, with most of those coming on end arounds and jet sweeps.
The supremely confident playmaker embraced the position change, saying he hopes to play an even larger role in the running game next Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
“I’ve been playing every position my entire life,” said Patterson, who returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears. “So when my number’s called, I’ll be ready. (Offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) did a hell of a job putting me back there. He trusted me. I had 10 carries (Monday night), so I’m thankful for that. Next week, I hope I get like 25 carries.”
Patterson’s biggest run of the night came early in the fourth quarter. With the Patriots clinging to a 12-6 lead, he took a handoff from Brady, followed Develin’s lead block and took off down the right sideline for a 22-yard gain.
Three plays later, White plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out for the Patriots’ only offensive touchdown of the game.
“He’s a big, fast, strong guy,” White said. “When you give him a lane, he can go. That guy can do a lot of things on the football field. He’s a special player. He helped us out for sure.”
Despite Patterson’s best efforts, the Patriots’ rushing attack as a whole struggled without Michel, who missed the trip after injuring his knee against Chicago. New England finished with a season-low 76 rushing yards on 25 carries, with White averaging just 1.8 yards per carry on eight attempts and Barner rushing just twice for 4 yards.
White was his usual productive self in the passing game, though, racking up a team-high 10 catches on 13 targets for 79 yards in the win.