The stage was set at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Chiefs against 49ers. Kansas City came into the game leading the NFL in scoring. Gonzalez had jumped out of the gate to a terrific start that year with 429 yards and six touchdown catches through eight games.
His first reception against the 49ers that day came with 10:28 left in the second quarter. It went for a gain of six yards.
It would be the last time Gonzalez caught the ball for the rest of the day. Facing mostly man-to-man coverage from Peterson, then in his third year in the league, Gonzalez had his worst day as a pro. The Chiefs threw seven passes his way, but only one was completed.
KC's offense was held under 300 yards for the first time that season and the Chiefs lost, 17-13. Peterson was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Four years later, it's time for the rematch. Peterson, now a Seahawk, comes to town to face Gonzalez once again this weekend.
Will Gonzalez be shut down again? Will he have his revenge? Will the Seahawks even lock Peterson on Gonzalez?
In the first meeting between Gonzalez and Peterson, San Francisco defensive coordinator Jim Mora, Jr. decided during the week leading up to the game that Peterson would handle KC's All-Pro tight end almost exclusively. But this weekend's matchup has a few more wrinkles.
Peterson wasn't much of a pass rusher early in his career. He had just two sacks the year he faced Gonzalez. In Seattle, he's emerged as a threat to bring down the quarterback, and has six sacks this year.
Do the Seahawks neutralize their best pass-rush threat by assigning him to cover Gonzalez again? Do the Chiefs try to take advantage of that by sending Gonzalez down the field play after play? It will be interesting to watch.
But there's more to this matchup than one player vs. another. It's no great secret that when the 49ers play at home, the referees are not unlike Rice-A-Roni: A San Francisco Treat.
After the 2002 game, Gonzalez complained that Peterson was holding him all afternoon, and was none too happy when he was flagged for a key holding penalty late in the game, nullifying a 44-yard Priest Holmes run.
"That was a bad call," said Gonzalez in 2002. "I block like that every play. They want to call that holding, and then when I go out for a route and I've got hands on my neck and my jersey and they don't call that. I didn't hold him. I didn't even grab his jersey."
Obviously, the Seahawks won't get that kind of advantage tomorrow at Arrowhead. At the same time, Gonzalez is not the player he was in 2002, when Peterson called him "the best tight end in the league."
He does, however, lead all NFL tight ends in yards per game this season.
Does he have enough left in the tank to excel against the 2006 version of Peterson? After a six-catch, 138-yard performance a week ago against San Diego, maybe there's still some get-up-and-go in Gonzalez' gait.
Peterson Vs. Gonzalez: Round 2
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