Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year for LSU in 2010. He'd already returned three punts for touchdowns in his NFL rookie campaign, and here was St. Louis Cardinals head coach Steve Spagnuolo, making the call to punt to Peterson with three minutes left in the third quarter.
What could possibly go wrong?
Oh, THAT. Peterson returned the punt 80 yards in a 23-20 win for the Cardinals, and tied an NFL record with his fourth punt return touchdown in a season. That matched him with Chicago's Devin Hester (2007), Rick Upchurch of the Denver Broncos (1978), and Jack Christiansen of the Detroit Lions (1951). Only Christiansen and Peterson were rookies when they set the marks.
OK, so what was Spagnuolo's excuse for deciding to have his guy kick to Peterson? Especially when Peterson returned a punt 99 yards for a game-winning touchdown the last time these two teams met in early November?
"The intent was not to go down the middle," Spags said.
Ah, well … glad we could clear that up. Mike Sando of ESPN.com had a few interesting theories as to why such a move would make sense, quoting certain win probability parameters, but Peterson is becoming a Hester-level threat, and when you have one of those types of players on the field, it might be best to throw the math flashcards out the window and go with the gut that says, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT PUNT TO THIS GUY!"
If it's any consolation for Sparano, he's probably helped 30 other coaches around the league with their decision-making processes when it comes to punting to Patrick Peterson.