Full effect: Patrick Peterson’s return adds confidence to Cardinals defense
TEMPE, Ariz. — Three turnovers, eight sacks, 13 quarterback hits and the fewest points allowed all season.
No, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson didn’t do it all by himself, but his return to the gridiron in Week 8 surely energized the team’s defense.
But what exactly does the Peterson effect bring to the table?
“The confidence he brought to the defense this week,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said after practice on Thursday. “He gave me confidence to call certain things I wouldn’t call without Pat P being out there.”
More freedom to call up plays defensively only added to the unit’s solid showing against the New York Giants.
Much of that had to do with having the All-Pro back in the lineup, which for Joseph, eliminated half the field, allowing him to run more man coverage and focus on playing aggressive.
Add in sack machine and linebacker Chandler Jones as part of the one-two punch and the headaches for opposing offenses substantially increases.
“I think having me and Chandler [Jones] on the same side of the ball definitely can create some havoc for offenses, having two dynamic playmakers on the same side,” Peterson said. “And when you have both of us in your face, that’s taking away that primary read and now you have to come back backside.
“Having me back is great for Vance, let’s him call the game a little bit easier. Not stress free but call the game the way he wants to call it and get back to the things he can lean on.”
After giving up leads in the previous two contests that Peterson missed as part of his six-game suspension, the Cardinals did no such thing in New York. Scoring just seven points in the second half, the Giants didn’t have an answer for the Cardinals’ defense.
A big reason for that was the pressure the team was able to apply to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who was constantly under fire.
“You guys have heard it about the P2 effect,” Chandler Jones said. “That’s really a thing. He goes out there and allows our defense, our pass rushers to get to the quarterback. The quarterback’s holding the ball and trying to find the open receiver.
“It’s tremendous having him on the field with us. And not just on the field but in the locker room. He’s a great leader, so it’s definitely advantageous to have him on our team.”
Sunday shined a light on another aspect of Peterson’s game.
While Chandler Jones led the team with four sacks — a career high — Peterson got in on the action as well. He didn’t record the team’s first interception — that went to linebacker Jordan Hicks — nor a pass defensed, but the corner did find himself with a turnover, strip-sacking Jones for just his fourth QB takedown and first strip-sack of his career. It also represented just the second QB to be sacked by Peterson.
The other three? Those came courtesy of Alex Smith.
“All week I was just so anxious to get out there and make a play, and I didn’t make a play up until that game but I was wired up,” Peterson said when asked about his game-sealing sack. “The whole fourth quarter I was like ‘at some point I have to make a play.’ I’m just itching to make a play and Vance made the perfect call.
“We knew that they would not account me to the pressure, and for me to make that play for the defense at that moment, it definitely felt great to get back into those playmaking ways for sure.”
The defense will need to have that same juice this week, with the team traveling to New Orleans to take on the Saints.
There might not be a concrete answer as to who will be under center, with Drew Brees potentially returning to the field for the first time since undergoing thumb surgery, or who’s going to be the lead back come Sunday, but the boys in the bayou have still figured out a way to win football games.
Behind the arm of Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans has strung together five straight wins, sitting first in the NFC South at 6-1.
The Saints also present the first legit test for Peterson in 2019, who will go against New Orleans’ top receiving threat in Michael Thomas. Even without Brees for the majority of the season, the WR paces all Saints pass catchers in receptions (62), targets (78), yards (763) and touchdowns (3).
“It should be a fun matchup, definitely got my hands full,” Peterson said of Thomas. “He’s by far the leading targeted receiver on their team by almost like 27 targets or something like that, so I know I’m going to get a heavy dose of him.
“Especially if they don’t have Alvin [Kamara], Teddy’s going to find a way and Sean [Payton’s] gonna find a way to get their playmaker the ball. I believe if I can hold up my end of the bargain and play great football, challenge him as much as I can, I believe I can give this defense the opportunity to be successful.”
Guarding a player like Thomas can be a daunting task, but luckily for Peterson, he has an All-Pro receiver to line up with on a daily basis.
“The toughest receiver I’ve had to guard — all of them are so different, it’s really difficult to pinpoint one thing,” Peterson said. “But probably the toughest over my career is probably Larry [Fitzgerald] because I go up against him every single day, probably the most reps. Bigger bodied receiver able to pull it through and things like that.
“But as far as in a game? I don’t want to say Larry makes it easy for me but he makes me feel comfortable when it’s time to guard those guys on Sunday because I’m able to see it in practice each and every day.”