GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ken Whisenhunt's wife, Alice, has a new mouth to feed. Fortunately for her, Patrick Peterson seems content with delivery.
Peterson's game-winning, 99-yard punt return for a touchdown in overtime Sunday gave the Cardinals an ugly, improbable, but much-needed, 19-13 win over the equally hapless St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It was Peterson's third punt return for a TD this season, making him the only player in NFL history to record that feat in his first eight games. It was also Peterson's second game-winner this season, meaning he's responsible for both Arizona (2-6) wins.
"He's my new son," Whisenhunt said, laughing. "We just adopted him."
So did an entire city starved for a shred of football success following a 5-11 record last season and a 1-6 start to this season.
Arizona was flat-out ugly Sunday. Backup John Skelton struggled to muster any offense in his first start in place of injured Kevin Kolb (toe). He even gave St. Louis points when he took safeties on consecutive possessions in the third quarter to help the Rams build a 13-6 lead.
Worse yet, running back Beanie Wells was muzzled to the tune of 20 rushing yards, meaning the Cards had nothing going. When they finally did manage a spark on Skelton's 13-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, Peterson almost gave it back on a pass interference call that set the Rams up for a game-winning field goal try from 42 yards.
"I thought I was a bad call but I'm not going to criticize the ref once again this week," Peterson said.
He just did, but thanks to Calais Campbell, any potential fines will sting less. The Cards defensive end capped a monster game of his own with his third career blocked field goal, sending the game into overtime. Campbell finished with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits to go along with the block.
"That's what you need sometimes to win games," Peterson said.
Peterson admitted he is surprised when teams still kick to him, given his impressive early resume, but as he watched Donnie Jones' punt sail toward him at his own 1-yard line, he had one thought in mind.
"I decided to catch the ball and just run for my life," he said.
Cards running back Chester Taylor had the opportunity to play alongside perhaps the best return-man in NFL history, Chicago's Devin Hester.
"They're both special," Taylor said. "They both obviously have tremendous speed but the difference is Patrick breaks more tackles while Hess makes more people miss."
Peterson broke two tackles on Sunday's money run, but that doesn't fully capture his game-altering ability.
"What he does as well as anyone I have ever seen is know where the guys are around him," Whisenhunt said. "If you watch Patrick, he'll look at the ball, judge where it's coming, and then he'll find where the guys are and judge what type of room he has to be able to catch the ball and then get his eyes back on the ball and catch it.
"Try throwing a ball up in the air and look away and try to catch it. It's not easy. To do that with those guys screaming down the field is very difficult."
On the game-winning return, Peterson made it look easy.
"I always look at the gunners first and see how close those guys are," he said. "I know the guys in the middle have to wait until the ball is punted and those are the slowest guys on the field so once I saw I had a chance"
Peterson was widely regarded as the best player available in the 2011 Draft when the Cards selected him at No. 5 overall. While others looked for an immediate impact, Peterson has been realistic with expectations since training camp.
It's been an uneven performance at cornerback, which is arguably the most difficult defensive position to play in the NFL. But the return game serves as a nice eraser for any defensive mistakes he makes.
"I know I'm just a rookie. I'm going to have my ups and downs," he said. "But I want to have more ups than downs."
On Sunday, he finished on an up. And as he passed Rams long snapper Jake McQuade and sped into open field, Peterson began to dance.
"I knew he didn't have a chance," Peterson said. "So I went kind of Deion Sanders on him."
PETERSON MAKES NFL HISTORY WITH PUNT RETURN
With his 99-yard overtime punt return TD against the Rams, Patrick Peterson became the first player in NFL history with three punt return TDs in his first eight career games. He became the fourth player to three in the first eight games of any season, joining Rich Upchurch (4, 1976), LeRoy Irvin (3, 1981) and Reggie Bush (3, 2008).
It was just the second game-winning punt return in overtime in NFL history. The only other player to return a punt for a TD in OT was Kansas City's Tamarick Vanover, who returned a punt 86 yards for a TD vs. San Diego on Oct. 9, 1995.
It also tied for the longest overtime play in NFL history, matching the 99-yard pass from Philadelphia's Ron Jaworski to Mike Quick on Nov. 10, 1985 vs. Atlanta.
It is the second-longest punt return in NFL history, trailing only the L.A. Rams' Robert Bailey's 103-yard TD return vs. New Orleans on Oct. 23, 1994.
Three players share the record for most punt returns for TDS in a season at four: Devin Hester, Chicago Bears, 2007; Rick Upchurch, Denver Broncos, 1976; Jack Christiansen, Detroit Lions, 1951.