Written by the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Through 11 games in 2011, Arizona Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson has tied the NFL's single-season record with four punt return touchdowns. While three others share the record, Peterson is the only one whose four returns have each covered 80 yards or more.
Peterson made history during his team's Week 9 game versus the St. Louis Rams. In that division match-up the rookie had a game-winning 99-yard punt-return touchdown in overtime as the Cardinals defeated the Rams 19-13.
Not only did the return mark the second-longest punt return in NFL history (Robert Bailey of the L.A. Rams set the record with a 103-yard-return on Oct. 23, 1994 against the New Orleans Saints) but it was only the second time in NFL history that an overtime game ended with a punt-return touchdown. The previous instance was on Oct. 9, 1995 when Kansas City's Tamarick Vanover had an 86-yard game-winning punt-return touchdown against the San Diego Chargers.
Peterson's game-winner also tied the record for the longest overtime play in NFL history which was set when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski connected on a 99-yard pass to Mike Quick on Nov. 10, 1985 against the Atlanta Falcons. The size 12 Nike shoes Peterson wore during that historic return are now part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's permanent collection.
"When I heard the Hall of Fame called, I was obviously extremely flattered," stated the LSU product after he learned of the Hall of Fame's request for memorabilia. "To have your name mentioned alongside some of the best players ever to play the game is humbling. At the same time, there are 10 other guys on the field blocking and helping me out and I definitely appreciate them too. As a rookie, this is a good start but my motivation is to keep improving and working hard to be as good as we can possibly be."
There is no question that Peterson has had a history-making start to his career. The first rounder's return in overtime was the third in his young career and made him the first player in NFL history with three punt return touchdowns in his first eight career games.
Just three weeks after he beat the Rams with his overtime return, Peterson had an encore performance with an 80-yard punt-return touchdown in the Cardinals' 23-20 Week 12 win at St. Louis. With that Peterson is now the first player in NFL history with four punt-return touchdowns of at least 80 yards in a single season.