Minnesota Veteran Proving the Difference on Defense

Coming into this season, there was arguably no area where the Vikings faced more scrutiny than on defense. Mike Zimmer’s forte flopped hard a year ago, and the secondary was especially troublesome. While the defense hasn’t been a strength thus far, the secondary is being held down through the leadership of veteran Patrick Peterson.

When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took over as the Vikings general manager, there was plenty of thought that his first order of business needed to be addressing a unit that gave Bashaud Breeland too much run a season ago. Veteran Patrick Peterson decided to return, and that turning point in the offseason seems to be monumental.

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Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson. © JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Although Adofo-Mensah went with defense in the 1st round, selecting safety Lewis Cine, he opted against going for a cornerback. Andrew Booth Jr. was taken with a 2nd round pick, and surprise performer Akayleb Evans was an even later-round selection. As a whole, however, the Vikings didn’t exactly become a juggernaut on the edges.

As we’ve seen with the change in head coach Kevin O’Connell, leadership and empowerment absolutely matter. Even during a bad year a season ago, it was clear that teammates truly enjoyed veteran Patrick Peterson. Everyone has continued to follow that line of thinking this season, and the longtime Arizona Cardinal is now experiencing one of the best seasons in his 12-year career.

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Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

If there’s been a constant in the cornerback room this season, it has been Peterson. Needing to help coach up the youth and bring them along, it’s the former LSU standout that has remained steady. When number two Cam Dantzler went down with an injury, Peterson took center stage. Picking off superstar Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen twice, one of which sealed a victory, it was even more obvious that this is a man on a mission.

Through just nine games this season, Peterson has intercepted three passes. That is the second-most he’s ever had in a season, save for his seven in 2012 as a 22-year-old. Peterson is on pace to blow by his tackle numbers from last season, and he’s never allowed a lower completion percentage or quarterback rating when being targeted. Even at 32 years old, it’s clear he’s still a force and having plenty of fun.

Ed Donatell’s defense needed someone to emerge as an on-field leader. While Harrison Smith is certainly an All-Pro and consistently talented on Sundays, leadership from the corner position has proven invaluable. There’s only room for both Booth Jr. and Evans to grow, and with Peterson’s example, they have a great front-row seat.

Although it would be a longshot to call Peterson a shutdown corner among the likes of Jalen Ramsey or someone similar, he’s played within himself and brought the Vikings everything they need in a year they need it most.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.