Patrick Peterson has been making plays for my entire adult life. Following a decorated high school career in Pompano Beach, Florida, Peterson started as a true freshman for LSU. Notching his first interception against Alabama, Peterson’s sleek #7, signature facemask, and gray Nike Vapor Jet gloves were important in forming the defensive back aesthetic at high schools across the country.
After hitting the Heisman pose against West Virginia, winning the Thorpe and Bednarik awards, and being drafted with a top 5 pick, Peterson started his now over a decade in the NFL with the Cardinals. Peterson’s style in Arizona, press man with his visible turtle neck, is one we no longer see as often in the NFL as the passing game has gained the upper hand in the never ending fight between offense and defense. Receivers have continued to hone their craft and the rules (such as illegal contact) have become too offense friendly to expect a cornerback to press a receiver for every snap of every game for an entire season.
With the Vikings this season, Peterson has been asked to play a different role than he grew accustomed to. Gone are the days of following one receiver across the entire field. Now, P2 is asked to play with more vision to the quarterback; his back is often to the sidelines, his eyes are often on developing routes instead of one receiver, and he is asked to make tackles as a force defender. It is not that he was never asked to do these things before, but Peterson’s evolution in a new phase of his career is another accomplishment on an ever growing list.
On Sunday, Peterson wanted us to know that he still has it. Let’s take a look at the highlights to see the different ways he was used and the different plays he made as part of a 34-26 victory.
An old friend
Over 10 years ago, Peterson lined up across A.J. Green during his time at Georgia. Early in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, P2 once again found himself lined up against Green with the ball in the air:
Patrick Peterson with length and acceleration on this PBU pic.twitter.com/e5BM5G7IJw— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Despite tweets to the contrary, Peterson does not only play “soft” zone coverage. He has been asked to play man coverage at what appears to be an increasing rate. This is aside from the fact that many zone coverages turn into man eventually as receivers pass through areas at full speed. Peterson was back in his beloved press man on one of Za’Darius Smith’s sacks:
Patrick Peterson in press trail man to the top of the screen pic.twitter.com/qjbytQ4NiD— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Offenses use 3x1 formations for many reasons. To the three receiver side, offenses have a variety of releases, route combinations, and matchups they can exploit. On the back side of it, defenses can be stuck in a true 1 on 1. If the defense dedicates a second defender to the isolated receiver side, the frontside coverage structure may come undone, and the defense can lose a numbers advantage. Here Peterson is lined up on the lonely island that is the back side of 3x1:
Patrick Peterson on the back side of 3x1 pic.twitter.com/1RVjAIDnUg— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
P2 and PBUs
In his post game press conference, Peterson ensured the media that if was going to be challenged, he would show up on the stat sheet. Peterson did just that on three occasions including running the route for the receiver and being disciplined on a double move:
Patrick Peterson breaks on the route before the WR even cuts and gets a PBU pic.twitter.com/retoGqm0yq— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Patrick Peterson doesn't take the bait on the double move and plays through the WR's hands for a PBU and near INT pic.twitter.com/XRRlkIbFMv— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Tackling the problem
Peterson, who apparently received a printed copy of a fan email saying that he can’t tackle during his waning days in Arizona, seems to have made a concerted effort all year to prove that notion wrong. He is often asked to make plays near the line of scrimmage when he is the cloud corner to the Cover 2 side of the defense and has a willingness to attack ball carriers:
Another nice clip of Patrick Peterson (7). The step down is how they have been playing their cloud technique (guessing this is Tite Will 6 again). Peterson with great play recognition and finishing pic.twitter.com/A8bU3dVXKF— Shawn (@syedschemes) September 12, 2022
Through 8 weeks, Peterson has bounced back from his injury shortened 2021 campaign. Peterson himself admits that there is still work to do, but his early season performance has started to block out some of the doubters: