Cornerback Patrick Peterson lines up against Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson during last season's game.
Trash-talking doesn't appeal much to Patrick Peterson, but every time he goes up against a top receiver, he delivers the same message.
"Let's give the fans what they want to see," Peterson tells his opponent.
This week, Peterson had someone he wanted to see himself. Peterson admitted he has been thinking about facing Calvin Johnson since the offseason, since the schedule came out and the Detroit Lions – and their star receiver – would be near the season's outset.
"I want to be the best cornerback in the game," Peterson said. "And if you are the best, you guard the best. I relish these type of moments, just to see how I will match up against arguably the best receiver in football last year, eventually he's going to be a Hall of Famer and he already is a legend."
It's a lonely world sometimes, playing cornerback. Even someone making a star turn like Peterson can be left looking like a fool once in a while. But
playing wideouts like Johnson or Dez Bryant drive Peterson when he's working.
"You have to watch what you wish for sometimes," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said with a grin. "I think an elite player like Patrick, in my opinion is probably the best corner in the league, is going against the best receiver in the league.
"Do we want to leave him out there one-on-one all day? No. But that's going to happen. He's going to have to win his share of the battles."
Yet Arians can't help but embrace a cornerback who looks forward to such a matchup.
"Very few corners even want to think about that," Arians said. "They wake up at night sweating thinking about that. This guy wants it. That's half the battle right there."
Last season, Johnson ended up with 10 catches against the Cardinals – and mostly Peterson – for 121 yards. But Johnson did not score a touchdown, and the Cards blew out the Lions, 38-10, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Peterson was physical and kept Johnson out of the end zone, per his coaches' request. Thus, "I gave myself an 'A,' " Peterson said.
Peterson has nothing but praise for Johnson. He marveled at his abilities, at being 6-foot-5 but moving in and out of his breaks "like a little guy." He believes he has a good sense of what Johnson will want to do but understands he will have trouble fully preparing this week because there is not a receiver with the same body-type against whom Peterson can practice.
Larry Fitzgerald doesn't count because Peterson would want to get physical, and he's certainly not going to endanger the Cards' top wideout. Instead, Peterson must save it for the Lions.
Running back Reggie Bush led Detroit with 101 receiving yards in the opener, while "Megatron" only had four catches for 37 yards. But Lions coach Jim Schwartz was quick to point out two whisker-close replay overturns of Johnson touchdowns were all that prevented it from being "a Megatron game," and quarterback Matthew Stafford left no doubt of Johnson's importance.
"Our offense runs through and around (jersey number) '81,' " Stafford said.
Johnson acknowledged to Detroit reporters the obvious, that Peterson will play physical and press often. "The thing is, we're going to see a lot of man coverage, so we're going to have a lot of opportunities," Johnson added.
Which Peterson is expecting to be aimed his direction – because he plans to be next to Johnson.
Asked if there was a quarterback on the schedule he wanted to pick off, Peterson chose Stafford – in large part because he figured it would be coming against Johnson.
"The thing you don't really notice about Pat is how competitive he is," Fitzgerald said. "He's a real mild-mannered guy. He doesn't say much, he's not all that demonstrative, but he's got a fire in him that burns like no other.
"This is special, going against another top dog. I know he relishes these opportunities."