GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One of the few givens Sunday was that Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson was going to get his touches. It was how Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson responded, however, that would going to dictate the outcome.
One of Peterson’s primary goals Sunday was to not cede a big play to Johnson, because he feeds off them. That was one monsoon Arizona didn't want. But take away the 72-yard sprint to the end zone and the 3-yard pick play, and Peterson kept Johnson to a respectable 41 yards receiving.
But it's hard to ignore the two plays that gave the Lions a lead until 2 minutes remained Sunday, even if the Peterson and the Cardinals emerged with a 25-21 victory.
On the first, Peterson was supposed to funnel Johnson to the closest linebacker, which was Karlos Dansby. Dansby jumped the route and came so close to intercepting Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford that Peterson thought he heard the ball bounce off Dansby’s chest. Johnson had just enough room between him and Peterson to stay a few strides ahead during his 72-yard touchdown.
“I saw Karlos coming across it and I thought it hit Karlos’ chest but instead it went through his bicep,” Peterson said. “That’s a tough one to bite.”
On Johnson’s second touchdown, the Lions ran a screen on Peterson from the 3-yard line that left Johnson wide open.
After Johnson’s second touchdown, Peterson held him to 20 yards receiving over the final two quarters.
“I thought I played pretty well -- kept him in front of me,” Peterson said. “My game plan was coming in here and continuing being physical with him, continuing playing my game no matter what goes on in the game, and to stay calm and stay patient and let the game come to me.
“I didn’t want to overdo it or over-force myself or over-exaggerate my technique, so I believe I played pretty well overall, besides that big, I think [72-yard], play.”
Peterson’s most important play came late in the fourth quarter. On second-and-2 from the Lions 37 with the Cardinals ahead 25-21 and less than 90 seconds remaining, Stafford went deep to Johnson, but Peterson smothered the 6-foot-5, 236-pound receiver. A first down was prevented and the Cardinals held on.
After the game, the respect between the two stars was evident when they exchanged jerseys.
“You can’t say enough about him as an athlete,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of Peterson. “The challenge that he took and wanted -- not just took it like we said, ‘Hey Patrick, you’re going to …’ He said, ‘I want this guy the whole game no matter where he lines up.’”