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Bears gearing up to face Falcons' Patterson

Falcons & former Bears RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson
Falcons & former Bears RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson

The Bears will face one of the NFL's most unique players Sunday in Atlanta.

“There aren’t many guys on the planet that are that big, that fast, that can do all that he does.” Bears DC Alan Williams on Cordarrelle Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson is an explosive receiver-turned-running back who doubles as one of the top kick returners in league history. The 6-2, 220-pounder possesses a rare combination of size, speed and power. 

"He's, respectfully, an alien," said Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "He's a planet guy; there aren't many guys on the planet that are that big, that fast, that can do all that he does. He's just a good football player that does it all."

Patterson displayed his versatility with the Bears in 2019-20, earning first-team All-Pro recognition and Pro Bowl honors as a kickoff returner both seasons. Playing in all 32 games, he rushed for 335 yards and one touchdown on 81 carries, caught 32 passes for 215 yards and averaged 29.2 yards with two TDs on 63 kickoff returns.

"I've never seen anyone like him," said Bears special teams standout DeAndre Houston-Carson. "He's big and he's really fast. He's got a lot of confidence. He's just a football player. He's really explosive. Every time he touches the ball he feels he can go to the house. I think he should be in the conversation for the Hall of Fame. I think he's one of the best returners of all time."

After spending his first five NFL seasons with the Vikings (2013-16) and Raiders (2017), Patterson started being utilized more as a running back than a receiver with the Patriots in 2018. But no team has been able to unlock his ability as a rusher like the Falcons. In 22 games with Atlanta since the start of the 2021 season, he has rushed for 1,020 yards and 11 TDs on 229 carries.

The Bears practiced among the flurries at Halas Hall Wednesday afternoon as they get ready for Sunday's matchup with the Falcons in Atlanta.

Patterson opened the 2022 campaign by running for 120 yards and one TD on 22 carries against the Saints. Two weeks later, he gained 141 yards and one TD on 17 attempts versus the Seahawks. He missed the next four games with a knee injury, but returned to action Nov. 6 and has played in the Falcons' last two contests, rushing for 62 yards and two TDs on 18 carries. 

"He's strong. He's fast. He's physical," Williams said. "He can catch the football. He has different elements in there. They put him in the backfield and he runs inside, he runs outside, he runs powers. It's not one thing where you say, 'hey, when he's in there, he's going to be running perimeter runs.' He runs them all, so you have to defend him like a running back. And then when they put him out wide, you have to defend him like a receiver." 

Patterson is a key reason the Falcons rank fourth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 160.4 yards per game. He also remains a dangerous kickoff returner, averaging 28.0 yards on four returns this season. Last Thursday night he returned three kickoffs for 88 yards against the Panthers. Patterson's eight career kickoff-return TDs remain tied for the most in NFL history with Joshua Cribbs and Leon Washington. 

"The one thing about Patterson is he is going to bring the ball out," said Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower. "Patterson is a phenomenal athlete. He's one of the best players to ever do it. We have a challenge kicking off there, but it's a good challenge and I think Cairo [Santos] is up for the challenge."