Some eyebrows were raised when the Atlanta Falcons released their inactive players ahead of the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Running back Wayne Gallman was notably absent from the active roster, leaving the Falcons with only two backs to enter the tilt: Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson, the offseason signing who would presumptively helm punt return duties, has never really been considered a running back previously in his career. His most work at the position came last season in Chicago where he logged 64 carries for 232 yards and a touchdown.
Despite his lack of usage at the position, he looked like Atlanta’s best player on the field – on either side of the ball – while he was on it.
The Falcons’ offensive line was microwaved meatloaf for the majority of this contest. Leaky, malleable, downright gross – and a threat to cause lingering issues that might require a doctor’s attention. It was an atrocious display from the offensive front in Arthur Smith’s head coaching debut.
In spite of the visual vomit of the offensive front, “running back” Cordarrelle Patterson flourished in his limited role as the speedy complement to Mike Davis’ bruising downhill style of running.
Averaging nearly eight yards per carry, Patterson led the Falcons with seven rushes for 54 yards, looking nimble and fluid as he navigated the nonsense of the offensive line ahead of him to gain positive yardage.
His marquee moment was a 14-yard rush off right tackle into Philadelphia territory. Ah, he also recovered a Matt Ryan fumble, as well.
The Falcons were never going to be big players on the free agent market – in fact, they traded the best wide receiver in franchise history just to be able to afford to sign draftees like Jalen Mayfield. The savviest moves you can make, however, are often the most unheralded.
The Dwight Freeneys. The Adrian Clayborns. The Younghoe Koos.
Cordarelle Patterson is not a running back, but he certainly looked the part on Sunday. Whether that’s borne out over the season of course remains to be seen, but if you’re going to find some kind of silver lining in the disaster that was the season opener, perhaps it’s the performance of Patterson – a player brought in to return kicks, who seemed perfectly capable in the rushing attack.