Patrick Peterson was talking about his penalties – the NFL crackdown on defensive backs this season is one reason the Cardinals cornerback has been flagged 10 times already – when someone asked if Peterson ever wished he played offense.
Peterson smiled. “Not at all,” he said. “I like my job and it pays me pretty well. I’m good where I am at.”
It does seem that Peterson is in a better place than he has been all season, and not just because he took on Dallas’ Dez Bryant last weekend and all but shut him down while the Cowboys had backup quarterback Brandon Weeden behind center.
A couple of times this year coach Bruce Arians or General Manager Steve Keim – or both – have publicly said they need their Pro Bowl cornerback to play better. Arians alluded to a health issue Peterson had, declining to go into specifics. When asked about it Wednesday, Peterson talked about the ankle injury he suffered in Denver that lingered for a couple of weeks. Peterson said that being the physical cornerback he is and needing to move laterally often, the ankle issue “held me back.”
Then came the concussion against the Eagles, one that left Peterson unconscious for a moment. Peterson said he failed his initial test coming back before passing and being cleared.
That’s why last week was so important to Peterson. He promised during his media session the Cowboys game was going to be the beginning of his best football, no doubt inspired by the Bryant matchup.
That first step proved Peterson smart for saying so. Bryant only had two catches, both coming in the last couple of minutes of the game on the Cowboys’ meaningless last touchdown.
“I think that was by far his best ball game,” Arians said. “Should’ve pitched a shutout if we just got after the quarterback a little bit.”
Peterson wouldn’t call it his best game himself, instead saying it was one of the best.
But “I am definitely played the caliber of style of football I am used to playing,” Peterson said. “Back to 100 percent, feeling good and ready to roll. I was honed in this week.”
The Cardinals’ secondary could use an uptick in Peterson’s play. It would come at a nice time, with fellow cornerback Antonio Cromartie also playing the best he has all season and safety Tyrann Mathieu finally resuming his pre-knee injury ways.
If anything, the Cardinals just hope Peterson can clean up the penalties. Of the 10 flags (nine have been accepted) break down like this: Five pass interference calls, four defensive holdings and an illegal use of hands.
Peterson acknowledged his pass interference in Dallas was a good call, but remains frustrated on the illegal use of hands, saying Bryant had his hand on Peterson’ facemask more than Peterson had his on Bryant’s on that particular play.
But Peterson knows these are the penalties being called and reiterated he may be getting a “little too physical.” Arians said the penalties all but come with the territory Peterson is expected to police.
“Anytime you are dealing with the number one (receiver) on the other team it’s going to be a battle,” Arians said. “There are a number of times when a hand gets here, a hand gets there, but I don’t see him as over-penalized, with the number of balls he’s having thrown at him with top receivers.”
It’s not something weighing on Peterson. For him, optimism is high, a corner turned.
“It’s only going to get better from this point on,” Peterson said.
By Darren Urban | azcardinals.com | November 5, 2014