GLENDALE, Ariz. — For Patrick Peterson Week 1 had many ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moments.
The Arizona Cardinals first round pick, No. 5 overall, had to chase Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith around for much of the day and scored himself a touchdown on a punt return.
The former, not so successful, the latter — the game winning touchdown. What a whirlwind of emotions for a Sunday afternoon.
“On the defensive side, being my first game in the NFL behind the home crowd I thought I played pretty good,” Peterson said. “I gave up some plays that I knew I should’ve made but that comes with the game of football.”
The punt return went for 89 yards, Peterson bounced off two or three Panther tacklers before breaking into the open down the Cardinals sideline.
Peterson was quite excited about the idea of scoring his first regular season touchdown and couldn’t wait to celebrate.
The rookie started high stepping about 15-20 yards too early. Luckily, for his — and the Cardinals — sake he heard the footsteps chasing after him and sprinted into the end zone finishing it off with a leap to the pylon.
“I took a quick peak and I saw him behind and ‘was oh I got to get there now,’ and that’s when I dove in the endzone for the touchdown,” Peterson said.
Before that punt return anytime Peterson’s name was called it was usually on the other end of being a defender of a Smith catch.
The Panthers star receiver caught 11 balls on the day for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Many of those were with Peterson in coverage. At times that coverage was right there and the credit goes to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Smith.
“There’s a reason why you want to make rookie’s earn their way into playing because when you go against guys like Steve Smith and some of those really good players there is a learning curve,” Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Welcome to the NFL.
“[Smith]’s definitely a top-notch receiver,” Peterson said. “I thought I had a pretty good day. He made some plays, I thought I made some plays as well.”
In the end Peterson was the difference maker. It’s the reason the Cardinals took him with the fifth pick.
Coach Whisenhunt knows what his guy is capable of and likes what he’s seen so far.
“The one thing about Patrick Peterson that really stands out to me is his maturity and his belief in himself. I am sure glad we took him with the fifth pick.”