Cordarrelle Patterson, a kick returner for the Falcons, has frequently expressed his admiration for special teams and how returning kicks helped launch his NFL career.
The NFL’s all-time leader in kickoff returns for touchdowns, Patterson now has nine, was established on Sunday.
With a 103-yard return straight up the middle of the Chicago Bears’ kick-coverage formation, he broke the record in the second quarter against one of his previous teams.
Avery Williams relinquished his kick-return duties to Patterson last week against the Carolina Panthers after Patterson missed four games earlier this season due to injury. Patterson was gradually reintegrated into the offense and his kick-return position.
In order to get a crucial block from Troy Andersen as he rushed through Chicago’s coverage, Patterson took this return from the “A” in Atlanta’s end zone, took it out of the end zone and up the middle of the field.
At the Falcons’ 45-yard line, he split between Bears kicker Cairo Santos and defensive back Elijah Hicks before sprinting the whole distance. At the Chicago 5-yard line, Hicks came within inches of tackling him from behind, but Patterson narrowly escaped his reach.
Since leading the league in kick returns (35), return yardage (1,017), longest return (104 yards), and touchdowns in 2020, Patterson had not returned a kick for a touchdown (one).
Setting the new record
Patterson was surrounded by his teammates as he entered the end zone, breaking a tie he had with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington, who all had eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Patterson had a kick return for a touchdown for the sixth season in his career, two more than any other player in NFL history.
Patterson was determined that he would stay on kick returns before the 2022 season, even after having his finest offensive year to date. He felt there was history to be made.
Although Patterson led the NFL in kick-return yards in 2019 and 2020 and three times led the league in average kick return yards, it is unclear whether that will actually be the case for him.
In spite of opponents not allowing him to return as many kicks as in the past, Patterson had four kickoff returns for 112 yards as of Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings selected the 6-foot-2, 220 lb. Patterson in the first round of the 2013 draft. As a returner, he has been a first-team All-Pro four times and has made the Pro Bowl four times.