Patrick Peterson shakes off criticism despite worst game this season

TEMPE, Ariz. – It’s one play in one game in one season.

But when Patrick Peterson is the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, the spotlight gets a little brighter, and allowing a 64-yard touchdown isn’t just one play anymore. When Peterson has a bad game, as he did Sunday against Washington, the critics come to roost.

“It comes with the territory by being the highest paid cornerback in the league and being recognized as being one of the best cornerbacks in the league,” Peterson said. “Is that something that I might shy away from? Not at all. Is that something I’m scared of? Am I worried about the concerns or the criticism I’m getting thus far this season? Not at all because I have 11 more games to go so I have a lot of games to improve thus far throughout this season.

“I do believe I’m not playing to the best of my ability right now but that’s definitely going to change.”

Against Washington he allowed 122 yards -- 97 after the catch -- and two touchdowns on five receptions to two receivers, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Not good for him,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Got beat on an inside route when he was supposed to have inside technique -- can’t happen. When you’re playing inside man-to-man you have to force the guy outside. It was not his best game.”

Arians doesn’t think Peterson’s struggles stem from a lack of concentration, instead developing from sometimes being overaggressive.

“Trying to get a jam instead of using your athletic ability,” Arians said. “Most of his things are technique.”

But general manager Steve Keim believes when Peterson struggles it’s because of a lack of concentration for all 60 minutes. During his weekly radio spot on Monday, Keim promised Peterson’s focus would improve this weekend.

The three-time Pro Bowler disagreed. He said his focus isn’t an issue and his $70 million extension wasn’t a distraction. But Peterson later said that he needs to be more aware that he could be targeted on any snap.

The 64-yard touchdown by Washington’s DeSean Jackson looked like evidence of that. Peterson tried to force Jackson to the outside, between the numbers and the Redskins’ sideline. But Jackson got a step on Peterson about three yards past the line of scrimmage. Washington’s Kirk Cousins put his pass just beyond Peterson’s fingertips and Jackson caught it. He took off for a 64-yard touchdown, one of the four Peterson has given up this season.

Peterson said his mistake on the play was not getting his head around fast enough.

When Peterson struggles, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles it’s usually because he was in coverage too long.

“Patrick’s one of the reasons we can do a lot of things we do inside, so for him to give up a pass or two here or there doesn’t mean he struggles, just means we left him out there too long,” Bowles said.

“We have to do a little more to help him. For what he brings to the table and what he allows us to do you can’t compare that.”

The addition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie this season has kept Peterson on one side of the field. Of his 303 snaps this season, 254 of them have been on the left side. It’s forced him to study more and be more patient, but it’s also allowed Bowles to run more blitzes.

“Obviously he has a lot of trust in us because our defense is built around the corners man-on-man on the outside,” Peterson said. “Because we do so much blitzing and try to help guys in the interior of the defense pretty much leaves us out on the island by ourselves, and it leaves us that much more open for exposure.

“You have to love this position because one Sunday you can be great, the next Sunday you can be horrible, the following Sunday after that you can be mediocre, so that’s the great thing about this job about playing cornerback.”