With the Vikings returning from their bye week on Wednesday, veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson texted coach Kevin O’Connell before players arrived back at TCO Performance Center in Eagan. He wanted to get the leadership group together to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“The second half of the season is about to start,” Peterson said when asked why exactly he texted O’Connell. “Now it’s about time for us to start separating ourselves.”
It doesn’t take much for things to go sideways, Peterson explained, noting how he’s been on teams in the past that have stumbled right when it was time to make a push. He experienced that as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, who happen to be the next opponent on the schedule.
“I’ve been in the desert where we had great starts and didn’t make the playoffs,” Peterson said. “It all came down to the second half of the season.”
Though his focus remains on the team as a whole, as the Vikings prep to host the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium, the 32-year-old Peterson is hoping to build off of his best game of the season. He balled out against the Miami Dolphins a couple of weeks ago with an interception and a trio of passes defended. He joked that the South Florida heat had his muscles feeling good.
“I don’t know,” said Peterson, a native of Pompano Beach, Fla. “The old man was feeling a little bit looser than normal. I felt great. I just want to continue trending in the right direction to continue to help this team win ballgames.”
That performance from Peterson garnered high praise from O’Connell.
“His energy was really a deciding factor for us on a hot day down there in Miami,” O’Connell said. “I thought every snap he just kept getting better and better and better. Now, ultimately what I’ve challenged Patrick to do is be that guy each and every week for us. We’re going to rely on him.”
Maybe in different ways than they’ve relied on him so far.
In the game in Miami, for example, Peterson played press coverage more than he has at any point this season. He got into the body of Dolphins receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle at the line of scrimmage as a way to negate their speed.
“We’re going to go ahead and greenlight him to maybe get up and be more competitive at the line of scrimmage because he’s got that skill set and experience doing that,” O’Connell said. “He’s done a great job of using the experience of all those years of playing against elite receivers.”
Asked about playing Peterson in press coverage, defensive coordinator Ed Donatell refused to tip his hand. Though he noted that he wants the secondary to “deny the ball” on a regular basis, Donatell kept the game plan as vague as possible.
“As for how we present our looks, it’s week-to-week,” he said. “There’s a plan with that, and that will vary.”
Not surprisingly, Peterson stuck to the script when asked if he expected to be used in press coverage.
“That probably was the most that we were able to get into the receivers,” Peterson said. “Maybe we’ll see more of it, maybe we won’t. That’s something that varies week to week, depending on how aggressive the game plan is.”
No matter how the Vikings plan to use Peterson moving forward, he wants to continue making an impact at a high level. He takes pride in being the heartbeat of the position group despite being much older than his peers. In a sense, Peterson being a born leader is what keeps him young at heart.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “The body feels great. The energy level is always going to be there. Just my passion and my fire to not only be my best, but to try to bring the best out of my teammates. That’s the joy that I get out of it. Just putting that fire into others and helping them reach their full potential.”