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Monday, November 28, 2011
Hidden key to Patrick Peterson's return

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The Arizona Cardinals weren't convinced the St. Louis Rams planned to punt on fourth-and-1 with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter Sunday.

They left their regular defensive personnel on the field -- Clark Haggans, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Adrian Wilson, David Carter, Paris Lenon and Calais Campbell among them -- just in case the Rams planned a fake.

But when officials flagged the Rams' C.J. Ah You for a false-start penalty, setting up fourth-and-6, the Cardinals subbed their full punt-return team onto the field. Cameras showed Wilson and Washington running off the field immediately. The next wide-angle shot available showed the punt-coverage team aligned in standard fashion, different from how the regular defense had lined up before the penalty.

Patrick Peterson returned the ensuing punt 80-yards for a game-breaking touchdown. The Cardinals won the game, 23-20. Would Peterson have scored without his usual blocking contingent on the field? It's impossible to know, but the odds would be against it, in my view.