Last week, it looked like the Minnesota Vikings had found a quarterback they could compete with in the near term as they look to find a long-term answer. Matt Cassel led the offense to 48 points in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the most points in a game since Week 16 of the 1998 season, when they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 50-10.
Heading into Week 16, Cassel's record as the starter was 2-2. After taking over for Christian Ponder in the first quarter of the overtime win over the Bears, he was responsible for three of the Vikings' four wins.
Including the game in London, Cassel has been a much better quarterback at home than on the road.
|Quarterback Matt Cassel: Home vs. Road Statistics|
On Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cassel looked very bad. He lost a fumble on the opening drive of the game and finished with three interceptions. He did throw one touchdown pass to wide receiver Jarius Wright in the first quarter.
For most of the game, Cassel's passes were coming up short to his receivers. It might be due to the windy conditions at Paul Brown Stadium, or it might be that a good defense is able to expose Cassel as an ordinary quarterback. According to Stat Milk, the Bengals came into the game with the sixth-ranked defense.
|Matt Cassel vs. Good and Not-So-Good Defenses|
|Pro Football Reference|
It really doesn't matter how you slice it, Cassel is not the answer for the Vikings at quarterback. At best, he might be the stopgap next year as the team looks to draft and groom someone to take over.
Even with the struggles of the Vikings this season, there have been some bright spots. The brightest has been rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. On Sunday against the Bengals, Patterson was the only Vikings player to shine.
|Vikings vs. Bengals: Contribution Breakdown|
|Return Yds||Rush Yds||Receiving Yds||Total Yds||TDs|
|Rest of the Vikings||37||61||106||204||1|
Patterson set the tone early, returning the opening kick 48 yards, giving the Vikings the ball on the Bengals' 49-yard line. Unfortunately, the offense gave the ball back three plays later.
Patterson has been as good as advertised. In his only season at Tennessee last year, he led the Volunteers with 1,858 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns. Just like in college, Patterson has scored a touchdown by catching, running and returning the football.
With his 143 return yards against the Bengals, Patterson is only three yards short of tying the franchise single-season record. He should be able to set the Vikings' record if he gets the chance to return one kick next week against the Detroit Lions.
|Minnesota Vikings: Single-Season Kick Returners|
|Pro Football Reference|
At 6'2", Patterson has the size to be an effective receiver, with speed and strength to be a threat from anywhere on the field. He has seven total touchdowns this season—three receiving, two rushing and two on kick returns.
He's second on the team behind running back Adrian Peterson, who has 11 total touchdowns. The difference is Peterson has touched the ball a total of 308 times, while Patterson has only 94 attempts with only three starts this season.
As Patterson becomes a bigger part of the Vikings offense, his contributions will only increase. The Vikings have tried to use his ability mostly on screen passes—thus the low yardage total against the Bengals.
As he proved against the Ravens in Week 14, Patterson is always a threat to take a short pass a long way for the touchdown.
Just imagine how good the Vikings will be with a franchise quarterback getting the ball in the hands of Patterson for an entire season.