With the season over, it's time to recognize those Falcons who took their game to a new level in 2010, beginning with the defense. Today, it's linebacker Mike Peterson.
Many of us didn't just leave Mike Peterson for dead coming into this season. We kicked him into a pit, rolled some loam in there and topped the whole thing off with a tombstone. One or two of us might have even stomped on the dirt, just to be sure.
Unless your name is Jason Kirk and you have foresight beyond the ken of mortal men, you didn't see Peterson's season coming. How could you? In 2009, he was decent against the run and utterly incapable against the pass, and there were times when he looked like the oldest player on the turf.
But then, the Falcons did something smart. They stopped using Mo Pete, Mo Problems in clear passing situations and kept him to their base packages. He responded by piling up almost 60 tackles and coming up with some seriously timely big plays. Thanks to wise usage, he managed to be a force for the Falcons in 2010.
The Falcons have tremendous front-line talent in the linebacking corps but a lot of creaky veterans and unknown quantities behind them, so Peterson did a great job staying healthy and making the most of his playing time. If the Falcons think he's got another good year in him and are willing to not expose his weaknesses, I'd welcome him back with open arms in 2011.
Maybe this year he won't have to claw his way out of the ground, either.
Final Stat Line: 59 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, 5 pass deflections