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Patrick Peterson fights through injury

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Peterson sends a message to his team by playing through a knee injury and locking up a top receiver

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

During the Cardinals 38-19 loss to the Falcons, cornerback Patrick Peterson suffered a knee injury that ultimately forced him from the game, but not until the outcome was no longer in doubt. While he missed a few plays, Peterson played through the pain and basically shut down one of the best receivers in the game in Atlanta’s Julio Jones, holding him to four receptions for 35 yards. While there is no structural damage to his knee, playing through what he deemed a “painful” injury and limiting one of the best receivers in the game, Peterson proved not only his commitment to the team, but his status as one of the few elite corners in the league today.

While the loss was the Cardinals second straight, dropping them to 4-6-1, further reducing their chances to make the playoffs, the outcome clearly wasn’t on Peterson. Not only did he corral Jones while dealing with the knee injury, he also went to the refs at one point in the game, after being called for a couple of penalties, and asked them to let he and Jones be more physical and play football. This clearly shows that Peterson wanted this challenge, he wanted to be the guy who stepped up for the defense and the team to shut down a receiver who came into the game with more than 60 receptions, 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns to his credit.

This isn’t the first time the five-time pro bowler has staked his claim to being an elite corner and possibly the best in the game. Over the summer, he feuded with Josh Norman after he signed a contract with the Redskins that pays him $15 million per season. Videos of Norman getting beat in practice began showing up and as the season started and Norman wasn’t shadowing the opposing team’s best receiver each week, Peterson was quick to point this out. While some may think Peterson’s tactics were juvenile, they were actually a prime example of why Peterson is so good and is a key to the Cardinals playoff hopes, he can play the mental game as well as the physical game.

The Cardinals play an impressive group of quarterbacks in their last five games of the season. They will first go up against Kirk Cousins and his deep-threat receiving corps, followed by traveling to Miami to play the improved Ryan Tannehill. In the next two games, Peterson and the defense will play former Super Bowl champions Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, before wrapping up the season in Los Angeles against newly-named rookie starter Jared Goff.

As the Cardinals embark on their mission to run the table in an effort to make the playoffs, the first team they will face is Norman’s Redskins, who visit this weekend. The Cardinals probably already have a leg up because Norman has been talking about his feud with Peterson. For his part, Peterson is more focused on the action on the field and he believes the Cardinals can win out and give themselves a chance. The leadership and winning mentality he has shown playing through the knee injury and continuing to be a vocal leader for the team will be key, especially since the defense must step up (after being called out by Head Coach Bruce Arians after the loss to the Falcons) and lead the way with the Cardinals offense struggling.