Let’s set the stage. It was Week 10 of the 2016 season as the Kansas City Chiefs squared off against the Carolina Panthers in a crucial mid-season battle. Carolina took over from the start, taking a commanding 17-0 lead. But KC battled back, scoring 17 unanswered and bringing the game to a tie by the middle of the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, Carolina took possession at their own 20 with 29 seconds left. They were on their home turf and it was their game to lose.
The reigning MVP, Cam Newton, took the shotgun snap and immediately passed to his go-to receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, on a quick slant route. With the clock ticking, and no timeouts remaining, Benjamin turned upfield, looking to either break past the secondary or reach the out of bounds line. But one defender stood in his way: Chiefs Pro Bowl corner Marcus Peters.
Peters hit Benjamin at full force, ripped the ball out of his hands, and raced up the field for a few yards before getting tackled. It put the Chiefs in prime position and they would go on to make the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Most good defensive backs could have made a solid move in the moment. Whether making the tackle or slowing Benjamin down enough for help to arrive, this play probably wouldn’t have been the one that broke the camel’s back and led to a Carolina W. But here’s the thing: Marcus Peters is more than just good, he’s great. The big-play DB was on his way to his second straight Pro Bowl selection and wasn’t about to settle. He used every ounce of his considerable skills, speed, and confidence to make a game-changing, jaw-dropping play.
“I actually was going to jump that slant, but I thought about the situation,” Peters explained. “They had no way to stop the clock, so I backed down, and focused on making the tackle and keeping him in bounds. Then my physicality and instincts just took over and I took the ball from him.”
Part of what makes Peters so special is how often he makes incredible plays like this and how routine he makes them look. In only two seasons in the pros, he already has 14 interceptions (which leads the league), two forced fumbles, and two defensive touchdowns. He’s a tireless worker, a film rat, and he’s blazing fast, but the biggest key to his success is his mindset.