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Tyrann Mathieu plays big as Cardinals limit Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson already had the Arizona Cardinals’ respect.

The star running back probably has even more of their respect despite the defense limiting him in a 23-20 Arizona victory on Thursday.

Peterson finished the game with 23 carries for 69 yards, a 3.0-yard per carry average that’s lower than all but two of his previous 12 games this season.

Go to the Cardinals’ best defensive player on this night, and it’s clear Arizona isn’t taking their performance against one of the NFL’s best running backs for granted. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, who put together 11 tackles and one tackle for loss, knew the significance of the defense holding up against Peterson as the game wore on.

“We didn’t make any adjustments,” Mathieu told the media after the game. “He lines up so deep in the backfield and when he gets the ball he is able to go three directions. For us, we were getting out of gaps and not playing with our eyes. I thought we settled down as the game went on.”

Mathieu said tackling Peterson was a bucket list item, and he did just that on his one tackle for loss. But on Twitter after the fact, the Honey Badger could only blush via an emoji at Peterson’s jump cut before he was brought down.

Peterson put it on the Cardinals early.

Twenty-one of his rushing yards came on an early touchdown run that gave Minnesota a 7-3 lead with four minutes to play in the first quarter.

The jaunt included a series of cuts, one of which saw Mathieu diving at Peterson’s feet and whiffing on a tackle. The score would be Peterson’s 100th touchdown for his career.

“I thought I had him,” Mathieu said. “It was one of those things where he gets paid a lot of money. It was definitely a reality check for me. I maybe underestimated him when I got him in that hole. I didn’t feel like he had anywhere to go, but I guess that is why he is Adrian Peterson.”

Arizona would hold Peterson to 16 yards on 11 carries in the second half. End Josh Mauro forced a fumble on the 30-year-old running back that led to the Cardinals taking a 17-10 lead on a 42-yard touchdown catch by receiver Michael Floyd.

Nonetheless, this was a moment to cherish for the Cardinals and Mathieu, who himself is growing into a star on the other side of the ball.

“Man, I have to go to the training room tomorrow and get some work on my shoulders,” the 186-pound safety said of Peterson. “That is probably the best running back I have ever played against.”

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