The matchup was always one Patrick Peterson was anticipating, before the season started and long before the losses piled up for the Cardinals.
Peterson is a cornerback after all, a good one, and there are few if any wide receivers that compare to the Lions’ Calvin Johnson. Having Johnson waiting for him Sunday means even more now, though, since the season is winding down without hope of the postseason.
“It’s something you definitely look forward to, with us not having the kind of season we have had,” Peterson said. “At the end of the day for me, this is definitely something I am looking forward to for that extra edge, that extra motivation.”
The battle carries intrigue even though the teams are each owning only 4-9 records. Johnson has 1,546 yards receiving already this season (on 96 receptions) with three games left. The NFL record for receiving yards in a season is 1,848 by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1995, a pace on which Johnson is now ahead.
“You can’t help but think about it,” Johnson told detroitlions.com. “It’s talked about day-in, day-out, whether it’s by my coach, fans, the media. You’re going to hear about it. My mentality with it is, do I want it? Yeah, no question. No doubt about it. I work my butt off to get it.
“I’m not going to change my ways of operating. When I come out here, I’m not going to tell Matt (Stafford) to throw me the ball or anything like that. I’m going to go about my business as usual.”
The Cardinals are fifth in the NFL in pass defense, but Johnson is used to heavy attention and has produced through it this season. He has only five touchdowns, but the Lions’ offensive issues filter back to not getting into the end zone more than being able to move the ball.
“To think about putting up that many yards in a season from the wide receiver position is crazy,” said the Cardinals’ own Pro Bowl receiver,
Peterson knows this game is a measuring stick. He already has six interceptions, tripling his rookie total. He has a pick in each of his last three games.
Then again, Johnson has an astounding 2,106 yards receiving over his last 16 games played dating back to the end of the 2011 season.
“(Patrick) is up for it,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “And I don’t mean that in an arrogant, cocky kind of way. He respects Calvin Johnson. You are excited to see those matchups. It’s what this game is all about.”
It’s also the kind of thing that can create reputations.
Peterson caused a minor stir Wednesday after, on a conference call with Detroit reporters, he called himself the best cornerback in the NFL. It wasn’t something out of the ordinary – Peterson carries with him a confidence that he brought with him to the league – and he chuckled when told it gained so much attention.
“That’s what we play the game for, to be the best at our position,” Peterson said. “If I feel I am the best, I am definitely going to let you know. I definitely feel I am playing at a top level right now, so why not feel like I’m the best?”
Peterson wouldn’t outright call Johnson the best in the NFL, out of deference to his teammate. But Fitzgerald gushed about Johnson’s abilities.
Fitzgerald added he will definitely be one of those in the building Sunday paying attention to Peterson versus Johnson.
“(Calvin) sees so many exotic coverages every week, so as innovative and tricky as you are with him, he’s seen it,” Fitzgerald said. “From the ‘Vices’ to the ‘Roll threes’, he’s seen everything, especially in the red zone.
“The reason why I love Patrick so much is he never turns down a challenge. He’s going to fight. I don’t know of anybody in the league with Patrick’s physical ability, those kinds of gifts. I am confident in Pat. I have the utmost respect for Calvin. I am looking forward to seeing the matchup, to be honest with you.”
LIONS GAME SELLS OUT
The Cardinals announced Thursday that Sunday’s game against the Lions is officially a sellout, the 72nd straight such sellout at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be televised locally on Fox (Ch. 10). It also all but assures the Cards of selling out the entire season; Next week’s home finale against the Chicago Bears has been virtually assured of being a sellout since tickets went on sale before the season.
SANDERS ADDED TO INJURY REPORT
For the Lions, starters defensive tackle Nick Fairley (shoulder) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) sat out again. Limited were Johnson (knee), defensive backs Louis Delmas (knee), Chris Houston (hamstring), Don Carey (knee) and Jacob Lacey (Achilles).