In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit have had their share of up-and-downs to say the least. In 2013, however, that has changed under the tutelage of new special teams coach Rich Bisacca. In spite of the scare that the team gave its fans during the pre-season, the play of the special teams unit has been the one consistently good element of the Dallas Cowboys. This week the unit will face what will be, at least in my opinion, the biggest test that they have faced thus far in the season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver and kick return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson.
You might remember him from last Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers. He is the player who took the opening kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown, tying an NFL record for the longest kickoff return in history. That was the second kick return score of his seven game career, his previous score came during his head-to-head match up with Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears. His performance against the Packers earned Patterson honors as the NFL's Special Teams Player of the Week.
It is not simply a case of his breaking a couple long returns or being the beneficiary of some good blocking on occasion. Of his 18 kickoff returns this season, Patterson has returned 15 of them for at least 20 yards; five of those have gone for 40+ yards. All told, he already has accumulated 703 return yards on the season with an average of an amazing 39.1 yard average. That mark is tops in the league, outpacing our own Dwayne Harris who is second with 34.5 yards per return and it betters Devin Hester's average by nearly ten yards per attempt.
It is not out the question to state that Patterson is the best kickoff return man in the game today. The one thing that could help the Cowboys out is that, unlike Harris and Hester, Cordarrelle handles only the kickoff return duties in Minnesota, at least thus far. Nonetheless, the kickoff unit is going to have their hands full on Sunday afternoon. On an afternoon where we, as Cowboys fans, expect or at least hope to see Dallas score frequently; we will also see a dynamic return guy who has the potential to answer each tally with one of his own. It is going to take a disciplined group of players who stay in their lanes and execute with solid tackling technique to slow down the Vikings explosive kick returner. Hopefully, Dan Bailey and his improved leg strength can provide some help by kicking the ball out of the endzone. If not, the Cowboys could find themselves being victim number three in Patterson's quest to lead the league in kickoff returns.
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