When we were approaching the 2011 NFL Draft this past April, one player high on a lot of people's minds was LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. He ended up going to the Arizona Cardinals and has paid immediate dividends. He has had his issues in learning the cornerback role at the NFL level, but he has made a monster impact as a return man.
Through the first nine games, Peterson is second in the NFL in yards per punt return with a 17.9 average. He has also proven to be a home-run hitter as a punt returner with a league-leading three returns for touchdowns. Naturally, this has the Cardinals ranked as the runaway number one punt return unit in the league.
Alongside how the 49ers handle Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Lee & Co. versus Patrick Peterson & Co. could prove to be the biggest matchup of the day. The Cardinals will need some big plays to spring the upset on Sunday and Patrick Peterson is a guy who can bring those big plays in spades. The best comparison in punt returns at this point is DeSean Jackson and the 49ers did a great job containing him. Lee did not have a monstrous gross or net average on his punts, but he kept Jackson from making big plays. I'd imagine we'll see a similar plan on Sunday against the Cardinals.
Head after the jump to check out Peterson's biggest punt return thus far.