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Boom-or-bust play of Marcus Peters paying off in second half of season

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) celebrates his interception that he returned for a touchdown with teammates in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

If nothing else, you know you are going to see big plays when watching Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Peters.

He is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with eight, but has also given up seven touchdowns, a figure only three cornerbacks have topped.

He also leads the league in passes defensed with 18 (using PFF’s count that doesn’t double-count interceptions).

With a league-leading interception total, Peters is the obvious choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year for many, but as the touchdown total will suggest, there has been a lot of bad to his game as well as the good that people are all too willing to sweep under the carpet.

Peters is the most-targeted corner in the NFL this season, having been thrown at 132 times over 15 games, which is 28 more than the next corner. Truly elite players at the position do not tend to be thrown at that much, and the fact he has been suggests teams think they can beat him. Given the fact that he has surrendered 923 receiving yards and seven scores so far this season, they aren’t wrong, either. He is at least making them pay by making it a risky place to go with the football, but Peters has not been a shutdown corner this season.

The play of Sean Smith is certainly a contributing factor to Peters’ target rate, but if teams are deliberately going that way almost twice as often with the ball, just how well can Peters be playing?

The answer: Over the second half of the season, Peters has been playing like one of the best corners in the entire NFL.

It is clear that Peters’ season enjoyed a watershed at the bye week, which came for Kansas City this year after Week 8. And opponents at this point in the season seem to be working from old information. Peters is still being targeted as often as ever, but his numbers have been better in every other category. Before the bye week, Peters averaged 5.4 receptions allowed from almost nine targets per game, for an average of 72.1 yards. After the bye, he is averaging just 3.6 receptions for 49.4 yards on the same nearly nine targets per game.

Before the bye Peters was allowing 60.7 percent of passes thrown into his coverage to be completed, for a passer rating of 101.7, but since the bye he is allowing just 41.4 percent for a passer rating of 25.7.

All seven touchdowns that he has allowed this season came before the bye week, meaning that he hasn’t surrendered a score over the second half of the season, and yet over that same span he has five of his eight interceptions.

Over the balance of the season Peters has had a lot of negative play to go along with his good, and there is still a very good argument to be made that Buffalo's Ronald Darby has been the better rookie corner over 15 games, but right now Peters looks like a different player to the rookie we saw over the first eight games of the season.

Since that bye Peters has the second-lowest completion percentage into his coverage in the NFL, and the second-lowest passer rating allowed among corners, and when all of his coverage numbers are put together might have been statistically the league’s most impressive cover corner over that time, not just the best rookie.

Defensive rookie of the year or otherwise, Peters looks to be firmly on the right track, and on the way to something impressive for a Chiefs team that will be playing in the postseason this year.

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