End zone picks for Vikings is Peterson’s latest contribution

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings were scheming about how to top their postgame road win celebrations on the team plane after a remarkable comeback at Buffalo, and after dancing shirtless the previous week Kirk Cousins was more than ready to pass along the gold chains.

Patrick Peterson was the perfect pick to be the featured partier.

The 12th-year cornerback came up with two end zone interceptions against the Bills, including the game-sealing pick in overtime to further enhance his newish nickname “The Closer.” Teammate Za’Darius Smith insisted on it.

“I denied him about five or six times,” Peterson said. “And then I was like, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’”

There’s been no reluctance for Peterson to be part of these Vikings, having re-upped with them in 2022 after first signing with the club last season.

Peterson has three interceptions to match the second-highest total of his career and is tied for second in the NFL with 12 passes defensed.

Beyond his still-viable coverage skills and clear nose for the ball, Peterson has served as a valuable mentor to an otherwise-young group of cornerbacks and been a steady and confident voice for a bending-but-not-breaking defense all season. The Vikings have made a habit of these dramatic rallies this season, and when they trailed the Bills by two touchdowns last Sunday there was little angst on their sideline or in their huddles.

“We’re winning this game. We’re winning this game,” Peterson told defensive coordinator Ed Donatell during the second half.

Donatell told him he was fully on board.

“And that’s the way we look at things. We’re never out,” Donatell said.

Said Peterson: “I’m always a positive guy. No matter what the situation is I’m always trying to encourage my teammates. They keep me encouraged as well, because I’m a captain and a leader. Guys look up to me for those type of motivational words.”

They look to him for inspirational performance on the field, too. The instinct to subtly peel off his man and read Bills quarterback Josh Allen for those end zone interceptions is a skill Peterson mastered, he said Thursday, after five seasons in the league with Arizona. The route-running concepts and general offensive strategy he’s paid to disrupt became easier to diagnose once he had those first 80 games or so with the Cardinals.

“I believe that’s when the game slowed down. Because I started to understand that, at the end of the day, every offense is running the same stuff. They’re just dressing it up different,” Peterson said.

The Vikings (8-1) host Dallas this Sunday, and the Cowboys will present plenty of challenges. They lost at home to them in each of the past two years, including in 2021 against backup Cooper Rush, and Dak Prescott is back at the helm now after another injury absence with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb coming off a career game.

Peterson’s fellow starting outside cornerback, Cameron Dantzler, is on injured reserve and out for another three weeks. His replacement, Akayleb Evans, is in the concussion protocol after being forced out of the game in Buffalo. With Chandon Sullivan in the slot position, that leaves Andrew Booth Jr., Duke Shelley or Kris Boyd to play opposite Peterson.

“He’s a wily vet, and it’s really how he conducts himself through the process of a week. He’s a guy who’s always talking to whoever’s in there, and they work as a pair so there’s a lot to learn,” Donatell said. “And you know guys look up to him, so that’s very powerful.”

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