On Sunday, Peterson returned from a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy and Jones nearly doubled his sack total for the season — recording four on the day — although Jones admitted he lost count.
“I thought I was at three,” Jones cracked. “So, wow, this is a career high. Four is even better.”
Jones now has 8.5 sacks on the season for the 3-3-1 Cardinals following the 27-21 victory on Sunday over the New York Giants. Having the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback on the field helps. A lot.
“I kept telling Pat before the game, I said, ‘Do you know how long their quarterback is going to hold the ball?'” Jones said. “Having Patrick out there, he shuts down the whole side of the field.
“Having that kind of presence and his leadership, the things that he says to the younger guys, it gives them some kind of confidence and swagger, too.”
But it wasn’t just Jones who made game-defining plays. Peterson took no time in returning to his old ways by shutting down whichever receiver he defended. By his own count, he was targeted three times — none in man coverage — and allowed just one catch. He also made his most important play of the game with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left. On a fourth-and-15 play with Arizona up 24-21, Peterson blitzed off the edge to sack Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick. Arizona added a field goal to go up six a few plays later.
“It felt great,” said Peterson, whose last blitz came last December in Green Bay and last sack came Week 1 of 2018. “I definitely felt that I needed that. It’s nothing like making plays and it was a pivotal moment in the game. I believe that the play definitely helped us win the game, kick that field goal, go up six and make it harder for the Giants to try [to] march it down the field.”
While Jones started to grade the play a 100, he downgraded it to a 98 because Peterson didn’t scoop — or score.
Part of what made Peterson’s blitz so effective was all the attention paid to Jones, who had been dominating the Giants’ offensive line to that point, and the rarity of a cornerback blitz. Jones had been power rushing Giants tackle Nate Solder early, and then when Solder started to sit down in his blocks, Jones attacked the edges.
Peterson said his blitz, however, was in the game plan all week.
“What a great time to call it,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
“He got there in a hurry. He’s a playmaker and I thought it was a brilliant call by [defensive coordinator] Vance [Joseph] and I mean a heck of a play by Pat.”
As for Jones, his four sacks Sunday were a career high and put him just .5 off the NFL lead. They also gave Jones the most sacks of any player in the NFL since 2013.
Jones had one sack in the first quarter, two in the third and one in the fourth. He strip-sacked Daniel Jones and recovered his own forced fumble. The Cardinals scored three plays later to go up 24-14.
“I’ve never seen a pass-rush technician like that, like he actually got moves and he’s very surgical when it comes with it,” fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He’s a pass-rush assassin. Like the Kobe Bryant of pass-rushing. I just told [inside linebacker] Jordan [Hicks], I was like, ‘I’ve never seen nothing like that in my life, that was a sensational game.'”