The Atlanta Falcons got their first win of the season on Sunday’s NFL Week 3 by beating the New York Giants 17-14 on a last/second field goal by Younghoe Koo.
Atlanta wouldn't have been in position to win the game if it weren't for the play of their early-season MVP Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson was signed in the offseason as a free agent from the Chicago Bears under the premise that he would improve the Falcons kickoff return game.
Patterson was All-Pro as a kick returner the last two seasons in Chicago, but Atlanta has gotten so much more.
Patterson led the Falcons in receiving yards on Sunday with six catches on seven targets for 82 yards. He also added 20 yards rushing on seven carries.
It's much more than the numbers for Patterson though; it's also the timing and the impact of his plays.
An x-factor of sorts, Patterson lined up at running back, wide receiver, kick returner, and gunner on punt coverage.
The Falcons first touchdown of the game was set up after Patterson downed the ball on the Giants three-yard line on punt coverage. It was a similar play to last week against the Buccaneers that went against Atlanta.
Trailing 28-25 in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay pinned Atlanta inside the five-yard line, and Falcons punter Cameron Nizialek shanked a punt 33-yards out of bounds. Three plays later, Tom Brady threw his fifth touchdown pass of the day, and the game was essentially over.
On Sunday, it was Nizialek pinning the Giants back late in the first half, and Patterson doing his job on special teams to down the ball.
"That was a big-time play in a game like this," said Falcons head coach Arthur Smith. "Those are winning football plays, and I’m proud as hell of Cam. He stepped back and bounced back, that’s what you want to see."
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On the game-tying drive, running back Mike Davis limped off, and Patterson took over. He had four touches on the next five plays as Atlanta moved the ball from their own 31 to the Giants 29-yard line.
Included in the drive was a stiff arm from Patterson that elevated the energy level of the entire Falcons team.
The game-winning drive was sparked by the first play, a screen to Patterson who was lined up wide left. He broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 28 yards.
"We know we’ve got a ways to go," said Smith. "You can see when we needed the last two drives, guys stepped up. Stepped up, went down the field, scored a touchdown, kept swinging and found different ways in the clutch. …
“Patterson made a huge play."
Patterson is the Falcons second-leading rusher behind Davis. He's the second-leading receiver behind Calvin Ridley, and he leads the team in yards from scrimmage.
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Patterson is the Falcons early-season MVP.
He's on a one-year, $3 million deal with the Falcons, and he's turning out to be one of the bargains of free agency. One wonders if it won't be long before general manager Terry Fontenot and the Falcons start talking extension.