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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Five-star: Just boot it out of bounds

By Tim MacMahon

Five-star question: Will Patrick Peterson, averaging 19.2 per punt return the past four games with three touchdowns, hit his average or return a punt for a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys?

Mat McBriar hadn’t had a chance to study Patrick Peterson much before Monday’s media access period.

“I haven’t seen a lot of tape of him,” McBriar said, “but I’ve seen him on SportsCenter a lot.”

That’s all McBriar needed to see to know that punting to Peterson isn’t a good idea. The Cardinals’ rookie has already tied the NFL record with four punt returns in a season. He’s the only player in NFL history with four 80-plus punt returns in a season.

The Cowboys can’t afford to take chances with Peterson. Every punt should land out of bounds.

That’s easier said than done if the punter is still trying to get good distance, but the Cowboys should err on the side of caution.

McBriar had a 23-yard shanked punt against the Redskins when he was aiming for the sideline. That’s the downside to the strategy of aiming punts for the sideline.

That’s a risk well worth taking against Peterson. It’s better to have a 23-yard punt than to allow an 80-plus-yard return.