Peterson finally putting out

It wasn't long ago people were wondering what happened to 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson. Where was he on the football field? Why couldn't he be found around the ball more often? Why wasn't the first-round draft pick making more plays, like first-round draft picks are supposed to do? Well, Peterson finally is arriving in his third season. And his impact, suddenly, is being felt all over the field for a surging San Francisco defense.

Peterson, in fact, was a little surprised upon learning that he'd been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the 49ers' 17-13 win over Kansas City.

"When I heard that I said, 'Me? I didn't even really have a good statistical game,'" Peterson said.

But that's the thing about the way Peterson is playing outside linebacker these days for the 49ers. His performance is going way beyond just statistics.

Peterson was credited with just four tackles against the Chiefs, but the flashy performer was everywhere using his speed and athleticism to get in the way of Kansas City's high-powered offense. Peterson was such a playmaker in the second half that, Niners defensive coordinator Jim Mora said, "somebody told me it was like the Julian Peterson Show."

That's quite a change for Peterson, who admittedly didn't quite live up to the high expectations of being the No. 16 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft during his first two seasons in the league, both of which were hampered by injuries.

But he's living up to them now. Peterson's signature play against the Chiefs - batting away a fourth-down pass while blanketing All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez to thwart Kansas City's final offensive threat - displayed his ability to work in the open field against one of the league's premier offensive weapons. Peterson also ranks second on the team in tackles and is third in quarterback sacks.

"Any time when you're not at the level you want to be, it always motivates you," Peterson said. "You're always going to work harder, and it brings the best out of people. That's why I think I'm doing a good job so far this year. I'm being more patient and just letting it all come around, just getting a lot better feel for the game. I'm not running around thinking. I'm just going out there and reacting and it's paying off right now."

Said Mora, "We've seen him grow up and become a pro football player and realize his abilities and all the things we drafted him for. You've seen his athleticism on display the last few weeks out in space. He's not as raw as he once was. Every week you see him get more mature, more experienced, more confident."

Niners coach Steve Mariucci added, "Julian's really becoming a complete linebacker."


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