Two years later, Patrick Peterson is a different cornerback.
Yes, he made the Pro Bowl in 2014, the last time he took on and clearly lost the battle with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. But he was not nearly as good of a player, not as dedicated in film study off the field and – because of health problems – not nearly in as good of shape.
The Cardinals all-pro will see Jones again Sunday. He has not forgotten the last time, and he looks forward to trying the new Peterson out in the matchup.
“It was definitely one of my worst games of my young NFL career,” said Peterson, recalling Thursday the 10-catch, 189-yard, one-touchdown performance of Jones in a 29-18 Falcons win. “It’s definitely something that stays with me
The history of Peterson versus Jones goes back to college and Peterson’s freshman year at LSU, when Jones starred at Alabama. Two high-profile players at two high-profile schools, and when each were top 10 draft picks, it was natural the battle would continue.
Peterson felt confident going into the 2014 game, believing he had done a good job against Jones in college. He said as much, and Jones admittedly took the words as fuel for the game.
There was none of that this week. Jones said “I definitely respect him as a ballplayer.” Peterson showered Jones with praise, calling him the best receiver in the NFL.
“He’s still a freak of nature,” Peterson said. Jones’ combination of size, strength and skill can be brutal on a defender.
“For a DB, that’s a nightmare,” Peterson added.
Peterson is much better prepared for it this time. Battling in 2014 what was later found out to be issues with diabetes. Peterson was often sluggish and overweight. While he cannot recall exactly what he weighed in the last Falcons game,
Peterson said the Falcons took advantage of his lack of quickness that day. Jones' 189 yards were a career-best at the time -- he had a 300-yard receiving day against the Panthers earlier this season.
Peterson also dedicated himself to becoming a video junkie. He had studied video before, but not to this extent.
“My football IQ and knowledge is much higher now,” Peterson said.
Jones leads the NFL with 1,105 yards receiving, with five touchdowns among his 61 receptions. Peterson is among the top rated cornerbacks in the league according to Pro Football Focus, not allowing more than 73 yards in a game this season and giving up only 25 receptions in 10 games.
“Pat P, he’s a very talented guy, but I’m not going to try to elevate my game or whatever it may be because I’m facing Pat P,” Jones said.
Peterson, who said his current bout with the flu won’t derail his playing Sunday, is embracing the matchup a little differently.
“I’m happy to start this little history between us two,” Peterson said. “Going against each other in college every year and now pretty much every year in the NFL, I believe it is great for both of our legacies.”
FLOYD, MARKUS GOLDEN ADDED TO INJURY REPORT
Golden was limited, joining Peterson, wide receiver
For the Falcons, punter Matt Bosher (hamstring) did not practice. Safety Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) and cornerback Desmond Trufant (shoulder) were limited.