The former Vikings first-round pick had been relegated to star punt-team gunner and returner, registering just two catches on two targets last year. Monday night, he saw six targets (five catches) for 38 yards, mostly on short swing or stop passes.
"I talked to him during the week. I told him, 'We're going to get you in the game plan. Now it's up to you what you do with it. It's up to you.' He responded well," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. "He keeps working hard. I think it's good for all guys to see. If you work hard good things come. You keep fighting, you keep working and you get your opportunity and you take advantage of it."
The rub on Patterson in the past had multiple facets. Zimmer talked about him not knowing where to line up or not running crisp enough routes. The counter to that argument was always that offensive coordinator Norv Turner should simply feed him close to the line of scrimmage and allow his athleticism to take over. That was almost exactly what Turner did Monday night.
But the reason Zimmer has been so successful is also the reason Patterson had to wait for his breakout night. Talent is only one of the many components that earns a Vikings player time on the field. Watching the defense, it's easy to tell that professionalism, assignment knowledge and play speed are just as -- if not more -- important.
Establishing Patterson on Monday against a banged-up Giants secondary was a brilliant move. Not only is it engaging a superstar talent on offense, but it is throwing a warning shot to the rest of their schedule. Much like the Seahawks sprinkling in Percy Harvin, this is a component that Minnesota might not use every down, but could be effective if they decide to.