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29 November 2015: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during action in an NFL game with the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. The Cards won 19-13. (Photograph by Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire)
Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald continues to be Arizona’s Mr. Consistent

(Photograph by Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire)
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There were plenty of people concerned that Carson Palmer might not be the quarterback he was last season. A few questionable preseason performances coupled with a terrible outing in the NFC title game had doubters comparing his potential demise to Jake Delhomme’s downfall.

Early in Arizona’s Sunday Night matchup with the New England Patriots, those pragmatic expectations looked to be true. But as has become another expectation — if not a tradition — wideout Larry Fitzgerald came to save Palmer from falling in the mud. It wasn’t enough to notch a win, but he made the 21-23 loss as close as it was.

Despite the loss — thanks in part to a botched field goal try in the closing minute — the game ball is surely on its way to Canton.

Of Palmer’s 24 completions, Fitzgerald accounted for eight and notched 81 yards and two touchdowns. The second put the Cardinals up 21-20 with 9:46 remaining and it was his 100th career touchdown reception. On that one play (among many) the 33-year-old showed he can still thrive in this young man’s game, making a diving catch in the left corner of the end zone that 75 percent of the time is dropped hitting the ground.

Before that, Fitzgerald brought the two-possession game into range for the Cards with another grab in a goal-line situation. His abilities as a red-zone threat were on full display, helping Palmer’s confidence after a rough couple of opening drives.

Palmer did open the game with a nice toss to tight end Jermaine Gresham to spread the defense, but what followed was a series of severely underthrown and overthrown balls to Michael Floyd, J.J. Nelson, and even David Johnson. The only player Palmer could consistently rely on to help him out was Fitzgerald, who caught eight of 10 targets.

Other supposed go-to receivers (and their time will surely come), Floyd and John Brown, were far less efficient. Floyd caught only three of seven passes while Brown only reeled in one of four targets. The former managed 61 yards, but the majority of that came on the wings of a 39-yard reception. If not for that one snag, he’d be completely on the skirts.

What made Fitzgerald’s performance so important was most of his catches held as great of value as Floyd’s shining moment.

With no timeouts remaining and 3:44 to go in the game, Palmer leaned on Fitzgerald to move the chains into field-goal range. He first hooked up with Fitz for a 21-yard gain to get the ball near midfield. Shortly after significantly missing Jaron Brown, Palmer then reconnected with Fitzgerald to enter Patriot territory with 2:42 remaining.

A couple of plays later came Fitzgerald’s would-be greatest contribution: moving the chains on third down with a 10-yard reception to hit the two-minute warning inside field goal range. Had Catanzaro’s kick hooked more to the right, Fitzgerald would have had the three biggest catches of the night. All that kept them from having the most impact was his teammates falling flat elsewhere — though you can’t jump on Johnson,  because he had a great showing as well.

Last season, Fitzgerald started the season with six touchdowns in the first five games. He’s already well on pace to have another similarly successful year.

What a swan song that would be should this indeed be his last season.

Larry Fitzgerald continues to be Arizona’s Mr. Consistent

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