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Arizona Cardinals

Updated Nov 6, 2011 - 8:11 pm

Patrick Peterson: Sunday's star, rising star

Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson (21) breaks away from St. Louis Rams' Chris Chamberlain, center, to rush for the game-winning touchdown on a punt return during overtime in an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 19-13. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Most teams would not want to see their punt returner field a kick at the one yard line. Don't fair catch it and certainly don't try to return it.

Then again, most teams don't have Patrick Peterson.

"You know, if you had asked me that eight weeks ago I would have said probably not," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said of being OK with Peterson making a play on that punt. "Not now. He's just done too many things special."

Sunday's game-winning score was just another play to add to the growing list.

The Cardinals' rookie fielded a Donnie Jones punt in overtime, broke a couple tackles and raced 99-yards for the score, giving the Cardinals a much-needed 19-13 victory.

"I knew it was gutsy," Peterson said after the game, still in uniform. "I always look at the gunners first and see how close those guys are. I saw they were wide and I knew the guys on the interior have to wait until the ball is punted off and those are the slowest guys on the field so once I saw that I had a chance"

Yeah, sure, that all makes sense. For those who don't really understand the dynamics of a punt return - especially a long one like that - just know one thing: Peterson can take it the distance every time he touches the ball.

"I was like ‘please don't fair catch it,'" Larry Fitzgerald said. "With the playmaking ability he has, I knew he wanted to be the guy to make the play.

"I'm just so happy he is on our team."

Indeed, Peterson is a special talent.

"That guy with the ball in his hands is something else," receiver Andre Roberts said.

"What he does as well as anyone I have ever seen is know where guys are around him," Whisenhunt said of the rookie.

Already with a pair of punt returns for scores this season, including the game-winner against Carolina in Week 1 (a fact he said he'd thought about), Peterson entered the record books Sunday by becoming the first player in NFL history with three punt return touchdowns in his first eight career games. It was just the second time an overtime game has ended on a punt return, the longest overtime play in NFL history and the second-longest punt return in NFL history.

So maybe now teams won't give Peterson a chance to return kicks, a trend the rookie said he noticed today.

"He tried to get it away from me a couple of times," he said of Jones. "He tried to angle me a couple of times on the sideline but I just have to wait my turn. I have to wait for the opportunity to present itself. I want to make a play each and every time I get my hands on the ball."

There's a reason Peterson is quickly emerging as a fan favorite, though apparently his head coach is rather fond of him, too.

"I love you," Peterson said his coach told him after the big return. "I said ‘Coach, I love you too.'"


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