Updated Dec 26, 2012 - 8:04 am
Larry Fitzgerald proves he's still an elite receiver
While he might be the answer to a meaningless statistic at season's end, there has been nothing trivial about his subsequent drop-off in production through Arizona's first 15 games.
With only a trip to San Francisco Sunday left on the Cardinals' schedule, Fitzgerald remains on pace to have his worst statistical season since 2006, when he played just 13 games. Although he leads the team in receptions (69) and receiving yards (785), Fitzgerald's average yards per catch (11.4) is the lowest its been since 2008 and his first down completions (44) are the fewest he's accumulated since his rookie campaign in 2004.
However, the most eye-opening aspect of his season, are the lack of trips the former Pittsburgh standout has made to the end zone. Fitzgerald hasn't scored a touchdown since Arizona's 31-17 loss at Green Bay in Week 9 and currently has a career-low four touchdowns in 2012.
At 29 years of age, it's safe to say Fitzgerald's skills are not yet in decline. If anything, he is likely still in his prime. And while the organization and its fans have been victimized as a whole by the constant quarterback shuffle this season, no individual has been affected more so than No. 11.
Fitzgerald has been a good soldier all season, failing to take the bait when given the opportunity to vent his criticism over the team's poor quarterback play. So while it only lasted for 60 minutes, Fitzgerald's eight-catch performance for 111 yards in the Cardinals' Week 16 loss to the Chicago Bears gave everybody a temporary sense of satisfaction.
But that satisfaction wasn't limited to the Valley.
Fitzgerald's second 100-yard receiving day of the season caught the eye of the folks over at ProFootballFocus.com, who had this to say about Arizona's poorly-utilized offensive weapon:
Fitzgerald Still One of the Best
He hasn't complained at all this season, but the revolving door of quarterbacking ineptitude has clearly affected Fitzgerald in a way it never has before, and there have been games where he hasn't looked the force we know he can be. In this game he took the opportunity to remind everybody that he can still be amongst the toughest men in the NFL to cover. The Cardinals sent it his way 12 times and he caught eight passes for 111 yards, snagging six of those passes against Charles Tillman, the man that can hold Megatron quiet when the two meet. Fitzgerald made leaping grabs that we have been used to seeing him for years, and ran with purpose despite the failings of those around him. We can only hope for his sake the Cardinals find an answer at quarterback, because he is far too special a talent to waste.
Since it came in a losing effort, Fitzgerald's big day might be as meaningless as the opening stat of him catching passes from four different quarterbacks. But in a year filled with negative headlines, it's nice once in a while to reflect on the performances that remind us that even during a season to forget, the Cardinals still have plenty of talent as they begin to focus their collective attention on 2013.
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