Bush was throwing a backside block this past Sunday when Patterson raced by him en route to a 102-yard touchdown against the Saints. Bush was in a similar position on the Soldier Field grass last Nov. 18 when Patterson—then a member of the Patriots—dashed 95 yards for a TD to help hand the Bears their only regular-season home loss of the year.
It’s hard to imagine anyone possessing a more unique perspective of Patterson than Bush and a handful of other Bears’ special-teams contributors.
“He’s big, fast and explosive,” Bush said. “It’s hard to get him down, especially one-on-one. He’s like a horse. They call him the pony.”
Patterson boasts an ideal combination of size, strength and speed. The 6-2, 238-pounder reached 22.23 miles per hour on a 46-yard run in a Week 2 win over the Broncos, which at the time was the fastest speed recorded by a ballcarrier in the last two seasons, according to NFL Next Gen stats.
“He’s rare,” Bush said. “There are not many players in the league like him. When you think of a kickoff returner, you think of someone with running-back size, small stature. But he’s the size of most linebackers running faster than probably anybody in the league at top speed.”
Patterson has now returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns in seven NFL seasons with the Vikings (2013-16), Raiders (2017), Patriots (2018) and Bears. That’s one shy of the league record that’s shared by Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington.
In addition to Bush, other Bears’ special-team players who were on the field for Patterson’s kickoff return TDs this year and last year at Soldier Field include Sherrick McManis, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Nick Kwiatkoski.
“He’s big and he’s fast and he’s hard to tackle,” Houston-Carson said. “Obviously anytime you have the best returner in the league on your team, that’s what you want.”
“He has size and speed,” Iyiegbuniwe added. “He’s got great balance too. He breaks a lot of tackles. That combination is deadly. He’s just dynamic.”
Patterson was selected by the Vikings with the 29th pick in the first round of the 2013 draft out of Tennessee. He was voted first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist both as a rookie and again in 2016.
Three of Patterson’s seven career kickoff return touchdowns have come at Soldier Field. His first occurred in his second career game on Sept. 15, 2013 when he returned the opening kickoff 105 yards in an eventual 31-30 loss to the Bears. Later in his rookie season, he set an NFL record by returning a kickoff 109 yards for a TD in a 44-31 loss to the Packers.
Patterson currently ranks second in the NFL in kickoff returns this season with a 34.2-yard average. He is also second all-time in league history with a 30.2-yard average, trailing only Bears Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (30.6).
Prior to facing Patterson last season, Bears special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor described him as “a locomotive coming downhill.”
“He just has a ‘want-to’ about him,” McManis said. “He wants to make plays. His effort is always there. He’s got great vision. He breaks through tackles. He runs physical and he’s fast. That combination is hard to stop. I don’t know too many people like him that have all the attributes he has and is able to put it together and do the things he’s able to do.”