It looked as if Larry Fitzgerald would have a huge day against the St. Louis Rams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
After all, Fitzgerald did catch three balls for 31 yards on Arizona’s 15-play, 91-yard scoring drive on their first possession.
Unfortunately for Fitz, and for Fantasy Football owners everywhere, the numbers on the stat sheet wouldn’t change for the remainder of the game. Three catches, 31 yards. In the Cardinals’ last two games, Fitzgerald has just four catches for 42 yards, and the six-time Pro Bowler has just one 100-yard game this season.
Fitzgerald’s diminished production isn’t from a lack of trying to get him the ball. Sunday, Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley targeted Fitzgerald 12 times — but simply missed him on a number of occasions.
“Two of those interceptions would’ve been big plays to Larry had we gone about it correctly, and that seems to be what’s happening,” Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. “We missed those two times and we missed him on a couple of other things. But we’re going to continue to work to get opportunities to Larry.”
Fitzgerald is tied for sixth in the NFL with 113 targets through 11 games. But his 55 catches rank tied for 15th in the league, so something is wrong.
“It’s hard because you don’t know how much goes into trying to work to get these situations,” Whisenhunt said. “And when we do get them and they come up and you have it there, and we don’t execute on it…you’re frustrated you didn’t get it done.”
And sometimes the effort to get the ball to No. 11 is derailed even before a throw occurs.
“On one sack, we had Larry running wide open down the field and we made a mistake in the line and Ryan had to slide to his left and actually ended up taking a sack on first and ten,” Whisenhunt explained. “You look at that play and it’s something you work to set up and Larry’s behind everybody and that’s where Ryan’s going to go with it, but we have a breakdown.
“That’s been happening too much to us.”
The play Whisenhunt was referring to was a first and ten at the Cardinals’ 25-yard line following Greg Zeuerlein’s missed 35-yard field goal. Fitzgerald lined up to the left against Janoris Jenkins, and beat him cleanly off the line. The Rams brought a delayed blitz with eight defenders rushing the quarterback against eight Cardinal blockers, including tight ends Jeff King and Rob Housler and running back Beanie Wells. But King got beat on the right of the formation by Rocky McIntosh, who sacked Lindley for a one-yard loss.
The Cardinals would punt two plays later.
Despite the struggles in the passing game, Whisenhunt applauded Fitzgerald for remaining positive.
“Larry’s been great, he works hard every day, he wants to be successful and it hurts him when he’s not,” he said. “We’re all frustrated, but it hasn’t affected Larry from the standpoint of how he’s dealt with his teammates and how he works in practice.”