Minnesota Still Needs Franchise QB, but Cordarrelle Patterson Gives Vikings Hope

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2013

Dec 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs the ball past Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) and linebacker Jayson DiManche (51) in the third quarter of the game at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals beat the Minnesota Vikings by the score of 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

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.  

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 15:  Matt Cassel #16 of the Minnesota Vikings looks for an open receiver while Connor Barwin #98 of the Philadelphia Eagles applies pressure on December 15, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Mi
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

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.

Against top teams, like the Panthers, the Seahawks, the Ravens and the Bengals, Cassel has struggled. Against teams like the Steelers, the Redskins, the Bears and the Eagles, he has been much better.

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 YdsRush YdsReceiving YdsTotal YdsTDs
Cordarrelle Patterson1435482051
Rest of the Vikings37611062041

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.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Minnesota Vikings returns a punt during the game against the Chicago Bears on December 1, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikin
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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
Buster Rhymes1985531,34525.4088
Cordarrelle Patterson2013401,34233.62109
Koren Robinson2005471,22126.0186
Eddie Payton1980531,18422.3059
David Palmer1998501,17623.5188
Percy Harvin2009421,15627.52101
Pro Football Reference

Oct 27, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) celebrates his touchdown run against the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TO
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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.

B/R Gif

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.