Slater gave Patterson pep talk immediately before kick-return score


CHICAGO -- Sony Michel had just hobbled off the field. The Bears were in the middle of an 11-play drive. On the sidelines Cordarrelle Patterson stood alone. 

Earlier in the game, Patterson fumbled a kickoff that turned into an easy five-play touchdown drive for Chicago. He tried to make a big play on his next opportunity, but he was tackled at the Patriots 18. 

Patterson was waiting for another shot, his confidence a little shot, when special teams captain Matthew Slater approached him by the Patriots bench. 

"He said, 'Listen, man. I believe in you. I believe you're the best returner in the league. We all know that. You just keep doing what you do. Stuff in football happens.' 

"That's just how Matthew is," Patterson said. "He's that guy. I appreciate him every time. I appreciate him every chance I get, because he's a motivator, man."

Slater didn't hesitate when asked what he told Patterson in that moment.

"He's the best kickoff returner in the league," Slater said. "He just needed to hear that. He's the best kickoff returner in the league. Someone needed to tell him we had his back, we had full confidence in him, and I just wanted him to make sure that he remembered that."

Moments later, Patterson was back on the field with the Patriots facing a 17-7 deficit. He fielded the kick and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown. 

"I've been in that situation," Slater said, "put the ball on the ground, and the game is kind of swirling on you. Everybody's yelling, saying something, 'Let's go,' etc. You just need to calm down and remember who you are. Remember the gifts God's given you, and we saw it shortly after that."


Patterson said several times after the game just how thankful he was for Slater's words of encouragement. 

"It helps a lot," Patterson said. "Them guys believing in you, having confidence in you. That was a big fumble. They got it on the [24]-yard line. They come down and score in three plays or whatever . . . Having confidence like that from the captain Matthew Slater, it just builds so much confidence in me, it makes me want to go out there and play for those guys."

The play itself served as a reminder of just how impactful Patterson can be as a return man. His acceleration, his speed, his elusiveness in space . . . they all contributed to the play that immediately got the Patriots back in the game after allowing 14 unanswered points.

"I was working a block with Elandon [Roberts]," Slater said, "and I saw him cut kind off behind me and I looked up, saw the kicker, and once I saw him get level with the kicker, I just ran to the sidelines. Veterans don't chase because you gotta cover down on the kickoff."

Patterson was especially pleased with the last move he made to avoid contact before he got to kicker Cody Parkey. He quickly side-stepped Kevin Toliver to find nothing but green grass in front of him. 

"When I made that step," Patterson said, "I was like, 'Damn! Did I really just do this?' I felt like it was a good move. I can't wait to get back and watch it."

Then, of course, came the celebration. Slowing down so teammate JC Jackson could catch him jogging into the end zone, Patterson high-fived the rookie and then high-stepped over the goal line. 

"It was so open, man," Patterson said with a smile. "I didn't want to celebrate by myself so I wanted one of my teammates to come and JC did a heck of a job blocking, got back up and still caught me." 

That celebration may get critiqued in a meeting at some point this week, but for one night, Patterson reveled in a bounce-back performance that followed a little well-timed encouragement from his special teams captain. 

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