Jaret Patterson only needed to run 11 yard for the second touchdown of his career for the Burgundy & Gold, but the score that put the Washington Football Team up 7-0 over the Philadelphia Eagles was the latest stop in a much longer road for the undrafted rookie.
The small crease made by Charles Leno Jr. and Saahdiq Charles was more than enough for the 5-foot-8 Patterson to slip through. Once he got to the second level, he bounced outside a block from Terry McLaurin and cruised into the end zone.
It was the high point of the afternoon for Patterson, who finished with a game-high 98 total yards on 17 touches. A 20-16 loss that eliminated Washington from postseason contention added a flat note to the performance he orchestrated, but it was another sign from Patterson that he belongs in the NFL.
"It is a slow grind, and you must have that 1% getting better every day," Patterson said. "It helps me to keep going. I want to be an inspiration to a guy that goes undrafted, you can do it."
Patterson, now with 245 yard on 62 carries for the year, earned his first-career start on Sunday after Antonio Gibson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday afternoon. Patterson's role has steadily been increasing throughout the season. He's come a long way, said head coach Ron Rivera, and he's starting to find his niche after being primarily a special teams player at the start of the season.
For the past four weeks, Patterson has not seen a single snap on special teams, and his 39 offensive plays against the Eagles were a career-high.
"Right now, because he's got opportunities to play a little bit more, you see his confidence start to build," Rivera said after the second Cowboys game, "and you see…his comfort level in terms of what we do and understanding exactly how to do it. It kind of shows."
There's no doubt that he and his 4.8-yard were needed for Washington against the Eagles. His 11-yard run was his longest of a 57-yard day on the ground, but the three- and four-yard carries he had throughout the game were smaller examples of how he had come from understanding where his running lanes would be and how to hit them.
His runs also put Washington in good position in terms of down and distance. Seven of his 12 attempts came on first down, and all but one of them resulted in positive yardage.
"He performed great. Again, he's making huge strides all year," said quarterback Taylor Heinicke. "But you see how tough he is and he's a good football player. So hopefully he just keeps progressing."
Patterson was just as effective, if not more so in the passing game. He made all five of his catches for 41 yards, which was also a career-high, and averaged 8.2 yards per reception. Most of his production came on Washington's final drive, when it was in need of a touchdown to win. Patterson accounted for more than half of Washington's yards in the final minutes, and back-to-back grabs set the offense up at the Eagles' 20-yard line.
"To me it means a lot. I am grateful to be here," Patterson said after the game. "Growing up around the area and watching this team, I believe in this organization with my whole heart. I feel like this can be a successful organization. It's been a lot, but that is just our reality. We just have to focus in and lean on our teammates and our Washington family."
The effort, while inspired, still wasn't enough to push Washington to a win. That, more so than his personal success, is what Patterson cares about the most.
"It was cool, but I am a guy that cares about winning," he said. "I am a competitor and I love winning. I could care less about the stats; I just want to get in that win column."
Now that it's ensured that Washington's season will end next week, it's last chance to get another win will come on the road against the New York Giants. The team understandably doesn't want to reflect too much on the season until it's over.
However, it can be said with certainty that Patterson has made strides since being undrafted out of Buffalo, and he's making a case that needs to remain part of Washington's backfield for the future.
"I pride myself on being a playmaker, I want to be a playmaker in this league," Patterson said. "So just when I get the opportunity, just make more plays so I can help the team.