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Keim on CB Patrick Peterson: Cards need ‘best players to play at their best’

San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (22) avoids the tackles of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Thursday night third-down woes irked Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.

His team’s 28-25 loss to the San Francisco 49ers came down to a final drive where Arizona’s defense couldn’t get off the field, surrendering three third-down conversions to the visiting team before the clock hit triple-zeroes.

By the end of the night, the Cardinals allowed the Niners to earn a new set of downs on 11 of 17 third-down opportunities.

“When you really take a deeper dive, eight of those were five-plus (yards) or more on third down,” Keim told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“It comes down to generating pressure, it comes down to playing tighter in coverage, and those are two areas we have to vastly improve.”

But what stuck out was one of Arizona’s best players struggling in coverage. Without knowing the Cardinals’ zone concepts, cornerback Patrick Peterson at least appeared to have a rough outing.

“I think there was some miscommunication on a number of snaps but at the same time, the bottom line is, for us to compete and to win against teams like the 49ers, we need our best players to play at their best,” Keim said. “Last night was obviously not Patrick Peterson’s best.”

Peterson was not shadowing the 49ers’ best receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, exclusively in the Arizona loss.

Sanders finished with 112 yards on seven receptions, including a goal-line touchdown on a 4th-and-1 where the receiver lined up in the backfield. Oddly, Peterson was floating in coverage deep in the end zone, and it was linebacker Haason Reddick who failed to chase a horizontally streaking Sanders to the right pylon.

The first-half-ending touchdown pass to Sanders put San Francisco ahead, 21-7.

Peterson also appeared to lose receiver Dante Pettis on a 21-yard touchdown catch that put the 49ers’ lead at two touchdowns, 28-14, with six minutes to go in the third quarter.

The play elicited a tweet from former NFL defensive back Charles Woodson, who questioned Peterson’s effort.

“I don’t think it was an effort deal as much as he was confused and it was (a) paralysis by over-analysis situation,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Arizona’s loss was about a lot more than Peterson playing poorly.

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went 28-of-37 for 317 yards and four touchdowns facing an Arizona front that couldn’t get pressure.

Linebacker Chandler Jones recorded the only Cardinals sack on the night, and though Garoppolo took four more hits, he had time in the pocket for most of Halloween night.

“(Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph) has a tough task because if you bring a lot of pressure you’re exposing yourself in areas if you don’t get home,” Keim said.

“And then if you play coverage a lot of times, you’re not getting pressure and they can potentially pick you apart as well. I just think you got to mix it up, you’ve got to do what’s best for our personnel.”

That personnel includes two rookie safeties, true. But the expectations for Peterson, who was not in the locker room to speak with reporters Thursday, remain sky-high.

Both Kingsbury and Keim suggested that Peterson is still getting back into the swing of things after sitting out the first six games of 2019 for a PED-related suspension. After producing a strip-sack in his first game back and an interception in his second, the cornerback’s third was the worst of the trio.

“I think it’s a combination of communication and I think there are things technique-wise that he’s still trying to feel his way through coming back off of suspension,” Keim added. “Expect him to bounce back. That’s what big-time players do.

“He’ll have a great opportunity against Mike Evans and Tampa.”

Extra point

— On who should take the blame for the Cardinals’ defensive woes: “I think, obviously, you should be more patient (with Joseph) because it’s a new system and that sort of thing. I’m also not in the business of excuses so I think that’s on me. It’s my job to put together the best roster we can moving forward. The way I look at it is I have to do a better job of putting players on this roster that give our coaches a chance to succeed. I’ll certainly take the heat on that one.”

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