In case you have missed some of the highlight shows, kick returner Patrick Peterson is kind of a big deal. The Arizona Cardinals drafted Peterson to be their number one cornerback, but even as he is learning the tricks of the trade on defense, he has already established himself as one of the best punt returners in the NFL.
Peterson leads the NFL in punt return touchdowns with four and is second behind only Devin Hester with 17.5 yards per return. Football Outsiders ranks each special teams unit by how many points, compared to league average, each team receives. In punt returns, the Cardinals are in first place and receive almost double the amount of points of the number two team, the Denver Broncos. The 49ers rank fourth in that category.
On the other side of the ball, you have Andy Lee. The man, the myth, the legend. Lee ranks second in the NFL in gross yards behind Shane Lechler and is second in net yards behind Thomas Morstead. As Lee wraps up his eighth season in the NFL, he is having arguably his finest year to date. He booms some monster punts every game, but is also able to control things accordingly when dealing with a returner like DeSean Jackson earlier this season.
Naturally, this is not quite a one-on-one battle. The 49ers coverage unit has been spectacular this season and will need to step up their game on Sunday. The Cardinals have their issues, but if they get some momentum from a big punt return, this game could get out of hand. Peterson has received a ton of help from the return unit, but he has done some crazy things independent of his blockers. It is not a one-man game returning punts, but PP sometimes makes it look that way.