The Raiders offense set up with three receivers bunched right, one wide left and a tight end on the line. Quarterback Derek Carr was alone in the backfield, at least until he invited a friend.
Cordarrelle Patterson motioned alongside him. It wasn’t to protect Carr. The fifth-year receiver’s number got called … as a running back.
The New York Jets weren’t flat-footed on this change of pace late in Sunday’s third quarter. They had linebackers standing ready to choke off the interior. Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele blazed a trail anyway.
Patterson followed that lead, made a safety miss and hit warp speed. Nobody can catch Patterson at that pace. He slowed down near the goal line, needing one final burst and Seth Roberts to hold a block to secure the 43-yard score.
Patterson didn’t stop there. He headed straight for the Black Hole to celebrate with hardcore fans.
“I jumped up in the crowd, but they tried to steal the football from me,” Patterson said after a 45-20 victory at Oakland Coliseum. “I held on tight, and focused on ball security so they wouldn’t take it. I brought it back with me, and have it right here in my locker.”
Patterson wants a souvenir collection. That’s the main reason he signed with Oakland this offseason. Everyone wants an All-Pro kick returner.
Patterson wanted to be more than that. The Raiders promised more offensive involvement.
“We sold him on some of the things we’d be excited about doing,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Showed him specific examples of plays being run that we’d utilize him in, ideas we had to utilize him with. When he got here we started working on it.”
Getting involved in unorthodox ways meant Patterson really had to hit the books. He learned most every receiver position, in case he had to step in for Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree or even slot man Seth Roberts. Then there were gadget plays and rushing opportunities to be mastered.
That touchdown run was an example of extensive practice paying off. The Raiders believed a touchdown could come from an empty backfield formation leading to a run behind excellent blockers. Executing it right was key.
That will be important for new wrinkles featuring Patterson thrown in to game plans throughout the season.
“We’ve got some things that we’re going to do with him. We’re excited,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a real weapon, we think he’s a strong, physical, fast guy. We look to get him involved. I think it’s gone beautifully the way it’s developed. He’s had to work at it. There’s a lot of learning on his part, to understand how to be in different positions, how to line up, how to get the play call, how to know what the responsibility is. He’s involved in all phases, touching the ball a bunch of different ways, blocking a lot of different ways, running routes a lot of different ways, so a lot of responsibility on his part as well. For us to develop him, for him to embrace and grow in those areas and he’s done a great job of it. I credit him and I credit the staff working hard with him.”
Patterson is comfortable as a Swiss Army Knife, a gadget player, or whatever you want to call him. He remains a receiver by trade, despite finishing Sunday’s win with three carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, with but just a six-yard catch to his name.
Rushing certainly works for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound track star. He has five touchdowns in 35 career rushes with an 11.3-yard average. He might not be a conventional back but he’ll burn you from time to time.
Patterson, for his part, doesn’t care how he gains possession.
“I want the ball in my hands. It makes no difference how I get it,” he said. “I always think I’m going to score. It’s no different if I catch it, return it or it gets handed to me. I believe I’m going to make something happen.”