The Oakland Tribune

Niners' Peterson planning some 'Shockey therapy'
January 03, 2003
By Roger Phillips STAFF WRITER

SANTA CLARA -- San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora bears absolutely no resemblance to boxing promoter Don King.

Mora is understated. King is blustery. Mora doesn't try to build things up bigger than they are. King has made a career of doing just that.

But this week, when asked about the impending matchup between 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson and New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, Mora almost sounded as if he were touting a big-time fight.

"I think it's going to be one of the great matchups of the year to watch," Mora said. "There's going to be some plays where everyone is going to know that Julian's got Shockey, and Shockey's on Julian, and it might be a run, it might be a pass, and someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose. ... It'll be fun to watch."

And viewers won't even have to pony up $50 for the pay-per-view telecast. Instead, it will be there for all to see Sunday afternoon when the 49ers (10-6) host the Giants (10-6) in an NFC wild-card matchup.

In one corner, you have the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Peterson, the third-year Pro Bowl linebacker from Michigan State who emerged this season as an NFL star.

In the other, you have the 6-5, 252-pound Shockey, the brash Pro Bowl rookie from Miami who caught 74 passes this season and captivated Giants fans with his in-your-face demeanor.

To be sure, there will be more to Sunday's game than the battle between Peterson and Shockey. The 49ers will need to find ways to control Giants running back Tiki Barber and receiver Amani Toomer. The Giants will have to contend with 49ers receiver Terrell Owens and running back Garrison Hearst.

But no other matchup has the allure of Peterson vs. Shockey, and a big reason is the job Peterson did on Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez when the 49ers defeated the Chiefs in November.

Gonzalez has been viewed as the NFL's premier tight end in recent years, and Peterson held him to one reception for 6 yards. Peterson also managed to get under Gonzalez's skin.

"There was a lot of times when he was just grabbing me all the way down the field, riding me all the way down," Gonzalez complained after the game. "I'm not talking about 7 yards, where it's iffy. We're talking 10, 12 yards down the field. You can't do that. It's illegal."

Illegal or not, Peterson earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Gonzalez. And he's hoping -- with help from his safeties -- for similar results against Shockey, right down to replicating the frustration Gonzalez experienced.

"(Shockey) uses emotion to make him play to a different standard than other players," Peterson said. "But it also can be a negative because he can probably get frustrated easier than someone who is more patient and calm. ... He has a lot of confidence in himself, but it can also hurt him. He'll get frustrated and then blow a couple of plays."

Apprised of Peterson's appraisal, Shockey maintained a low-key stance for perhaps the first time this season.

"It's his opinion," Shockey said. "I'm not getting mixed up in any of that. I'm just ready to play the game."

The possibility that Shockey can be overly emotional is about the only negative thing anyone with the 49ers has had to say about him this week. They speak of his size, his speed, his aggressiveness and an intensity that would make him an asset on defense if he was so inclined.

"What I admire the most about the guy, besides his physical skills, is his passion when he plays," Mora said. "You'd love to have him on your defense because he epitomizes what you're looking for in a defensive player, just a real passion and zeal to play."

The Giants clearly have equal respect for Peterson. In 2000, they drafted running back Ron Dayne with the 11th pick of the first round. But Peterson, who was taken five picks later by the 49ers, was a player the Giants coveted.

When the 49ers went on the road to beat the Giants 16-13 in the season opener, it was the first regular-season game for Shockey. The 49ers used a variety of defenders against Shockey, including Peterson. Shockey was limited to three catches for 44 yards.

"He's the kind of guy that can match up with Jeremy's speed," Giants quarterback Kerry Collins said of Peterson. "I think that's the thing that people are having trouble with, is Jeremy's speed. But I think Peterson is as fast as Shockey, maybe faster, so we're going to have to be selective with what we do and pick our spots with him."

Make no mistake, though. The ball will be coming Shockey's way Sunday, perhaps as many as 14 times, by Peterson's estimate. And which player wins when these two collide could go a long way toward deciding the outcome.

"The coaches have a lot of faith in me to match up with him," Peterson said. "I am going to jam him up a little. I am going to have some help inside, and there will be some plays where other people are guarding him. We are going to have a good time out there."

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