Larry Fitzgerald smoked Cowboys defensive backs all night Monday for one of the best performances of his career. The Cardinals receiver, who has infuriated defenders since the George W. Bush administration with both limited and Pro Bowl quarterbacks, caught 13 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Without David Johnson in the fold, Fitzgerald was Arizona’s best offensive player on the field, and his teammates did everything they could to get him the rock.
Fitzgerald’s 13 catches tied a career high, and last night was also the first time he’s turned in a 10-catch, 100-yard performance with a TD since 2010. Carson Palmer threw his way 15 times, while only going 16-for-33 on all of his other pass plays. The shell of Chris Johnson and the Cardinals couldn’t run the ball at all; that they managed to keep the game close against Dallas was mostly due to Fitzgerald making catches like this. It doesn’t matter how old the WR gets if he still has hands like this.
Fitzgerald’s production has dipped a bit when he was playing with QB stand-ins like John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, but his talent never did. From 2012-2014, Fitzgerald failed to break 1,000 yards, and he only managed six touchdowns in the two seasons without Palmer. In 2012, he even caught under 50 percent of his targets for the only time in his career, which should tell you all you need to know about Skelton, Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer. When paired with Palmer, Fitzgerald has been among the best receivers in the NFL, even as he’s headed into his mid-30s. Hell, Fitzgerald led the NFL in catches last year at age 33. His fellow Cardinals all credited him for keeping them in the game last night:
“That’s Fitz,” coach Bruce Arians said. “That’s Monday night. He’s a Monday player. It was a great performance by him. It’s a shame we couldn’t play better around him.”
“I think he would be anybody’s target of choice,” Palmer said. “The touchdown route was great. We had him two other one-on-one situations with his big body on a small body, and I love that matchup whoever that guy is, as long as he has that size advantage because he can jump and make those kinds of plays.”
The jump-ball play was spectacular, but also impressive was the third-quarter catch Fitzgerald made before his touchdown, where he jetted down the sideline, made a perfect adjustment towards the ball, spun away from the safety, and came down with the catch under immense pressure:
Fitzgerald claimed that his incredible jump-ball robbery was “more luck than anything,” which might be believable if he hadn’t been owning cornerbacks for years. No need to talk about the end of Larry Fitzgerald, when the present Larry Fitzgerald can still be so good. He’s gracefully evolved into more of a slot receiver as he’s grown older, and he still has the top-end speed to get loose on the edge from time to time. With Johnson out for a while, the Cardinals are going to have a tough time being competitive in the NFC West, but Fitzgerald is as good as ever.