GLENDALE — When two 4-9 NFL teams get together in mid-December, sometimes you’ve got to search long and hard for interesting storylines to make the game a little more palatable.
That storyline this week was the NFL’s best receiver, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, against one of the top young cornerbacks in the game in Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.
Johnson did catch 10 passes for 121 yards, but Peterson and the the Cardinals defense kept Johnson out of the end zone in a convincing 38-10 win at University of Phoenix Stadium — and the second-year man from LSU had his fingerprints all over it.
In the second quarter, Peterson intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass intended for Johnson, got back to his feet and weaved through Lions’ players all the way down to the Detroit three-yard line. Two plays later, Beanie Wells plunged into the end zone from two yards out, giving the Cardinals a 14-7 lead they’d never relinquish.
“It was everything I thought it would be,” Peterson told the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network after the game. “He’s a great athlete and a tremendous, tremendous receiver. I give the guy the utmost respect because he continues to do what he’s known for week in and week out.
“It was definitely a tough task for me, like I said throughout the week — it was going to be a measuring stick for me and I thought I measured up pretty well here today and hopefully I can keep that going for the rest of the season.”
Peterson finished the game with a team-high seven tackles and broke up two passes in addition to his game-changing interception. He now has seven interceptions on the season, which is tied for the second-most in the league.
“I just wanted to be physical, I wanted to meet him at the line of scrimmage each and every down,” Peterson said. “Each and every down, I wanted to draw a line in the sand just to let him know this was the type of game it was going to be.
“Those guys came out with a great game plan, but we knew what they wanted to do and we picked them off the way we needed to.”
When Peterson wasn’t one-on-one with Johnson, cornerback William Gay and safety Kerry Rhodes double-teamed the All-Pro, similar to outside coverage on a punt return, to help keep him in check.
“I didn’t necessarily agree with the coverage but the head man (Ken Whisenhunt) has the last say, so he thought that would be the best opportunity to slow him down a little bit and that’s what we did.”
Whisenhunt said the Cardinals’ game plan for Johnson wasn’t necessarily original.
“There’s other teams that have done that,” Whisenhunt said. “New England’s done it before and Kansas City we’ve seen do it before, so it’s not a completely new approach but part of it was to let them know we were going to take him out on that play. That puts the onus on other guys that they’ve got to be able to cover when we know that they’re not going to go to Calvin Johnson.
“It was a good scheme, our defensive staff did a great job and our players executed it well.”
Johnson had nothing but praise for Peterson following the contest.
“Good corner,” Johnson said. “Good ball skills, overall a good player, man. It’s a pleasure to play good players in this league — because it’s some great competition and he’s one of the good ones.”