GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last Sunday in Chicago, Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 112 yard and three touchdowns.
It was a performance that showed the rest of the NFL that the 32-year-old has still got it, and therefore is someone defenses should pay attention to with regards to their game plan.
Apparently the San Francisco 49ers did not get the memo.
Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 134 yards and two scores Sunday as the Cardinals defeated the 49ers 47-7. He was open on most of his catches, finding holes in the San Francisco secondary the entire afternoon.
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said Fitzgerald is “special,” adding he is “different than any other superstar I’ve been around.”
Through three games, Fitzgerald has caught 23 passes for 333 yards and five touchdowns. The five scores tie a franchise record for receiving touchdowns through a season’s first three games.
“Yeah, he can do that week in and week out,” Palmer said. “It’s not going to happen week in and week out just because the more times he gets the ball, the more he gets a circle around him and is targeted defensively.”
That should be the case, and going forward it just might be. Sunday, though, it was not, and the veteran wideout made the 49ers pay. It’s another sign that Fitzgerald’s transformation from a receiver who did most of his work split out wide to one who works the middle of the field from the slot is complete, with incredible results.
Fitzgerald said he never doubted that he could be effective in this new role, which he’s held since Arians arrived in 2013.
“No, I’m not one to ever doubt myself,” he said. “But you play the same position and you have a lot of success for a long time, I think it would be an adjustment for anybody.”
Fitzgerald compared it to a sports reporter being asked to write for a newspaper’s home and garden section, saying there would be some questions about that change, too.
“But your skill would eventually shine,” he said. “So it was an adjustment, but I firmly believe that Coach Arians has my best interest and this team’s best interest at hand. I’ve embraced everything he’s asked me to do. I just want to continue to improve every single day.”
The idea that Fitzgerald could get even better is worrisome for opposing defenses. His re-emergence this season has given the Cardinals an embarrassment of riches offensively. Be it Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington, David Johnson or another player, Arians has a bevy of options to choose from when designing and calling plays.
And with Palmer leading the way, so far, they’ve proven to be difficult to contain.
“It feels good,” Chris Johnson said of being part of an offense when everything seems to be working. “When I was making a decision to come here, just knowing the playmakers that they have on this offense before I came here; the defense just can’t drop everyone to stop Larry or put eight, nine in the box to stop the running game. They have to play us fair.”
The Cardinals, who racked up 446 net yards and were 6-of-13 on third down Sunday also feel like they can be even better.
“Oh yeah,” Fitzgerald said. “In the locker room, Coach Arians told us that we’ve scored some points but we haven’t played great football. I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet this season.
“We’re winning, we’re putting a lot of points up and it looks good on paper if you haven’t been watching the games, but we’re not clicking on all cylinders yet and that’s scary to think about that, that we can get much better.”
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