GLENDALE — There was some doubt whether rookie punt returning
sensation Patrick Peterson would even be able to play for the Arizona
Cardinals in their season finale against Seattle on Sunday.
Peterson suffered a strained Achilles tendon last week in a loss to
Cincinnati and was slowed for much of the week in practice.
Not only did Peterson play, but he nearly made history by taking his fifth
punt return back for a touchdown, which would have broken the league
In the 2nd quarter of the Cardinals’ 23-20 overtime win, Peterson fielded
a punt from Seattle’s John Ryan at his own 27-yard line, made a couple
of defenders miss, and broke into the clear, with only Ryan standing
between him and his place in football immortality.
A mismatch, right? Not on this day. Ryan stepped up and made the
tackle, holding P-Twice to a 31-yard return, which gave the Cardinals
great field position at the Seattle 31-yard line. Seven plays later, Jay
Feely kicked a 41-yard field goal to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 10-3.
Getting dragged down by the punter is not exactly a badge of honor, so
did Peterson get any ribbing from his teammates after the play?
“Nah, because they know that normally doesn’t happen,” Peterson said
with a smile. “They gave me a little leeway.”
And the rookie from LSU has certainly earned that leeway. Peterson
finished with 699 punt return yards this season — a new NFL record for
rookies. His yardage total is the 2nd-highest single-season mark in
history, behind only Desmond Howard, who had 875 punt return yards
for the Green Bay Packers in 1996.
Peterson’s punt returning wasn’t his only contribution on special teams.
In the third quarter, Peterson came off the right edge and blocked a 24-
yard field goal attempt by Seattle’s Steven Hauschka. That kept the
Cardinals up 17-10, and considering the way the game shook out, saved
the win for Arizona.
“That felt great. Actually I told Adrian [Wilson], because I had an
opportunity to get the first one, but I lagged off a little,” he said. “I said
‘Adrian, I’m gonna get this one.’ I came around the curve untouched,
and that’s when I got my hands on it.
It was the 5th blocked field goal by the Cardinals in 2011, and the
second by Peterson. Calais Campbell had the other three for Arizona,
who led the league in that category, and have blocked more field goals
(12) than any other team in the league since 2008.