TEMPE, Ariz. — Good or bad, Candlestick Park holds plenty of memories for the Arizona Cardinals as they get set to play their final scheduled matchup at the 53-year-old venue Sunday.
For quarterback Carson Palmer, it’s the site of the first NFL game
he ever watched in person.
For seven-time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald, it serves as a piece of history — the grounds where he scored the first of his 80 regular season touchdowns back in Oct. 2004.
And for fellow wideout Michael Floyd, the Bay Area stadium marks the only place he’s ever recorded a 100-yard game in what are still the early stages of his professional career.
Lost amid the Cardinals’ deflating, season-ending 27-13 loss in San Francisco last December — which capped off an underwhelming 5-11 campaign — was the show Floyd put on against a veteran-laden 49ers’ secondary.
Playing with his fourth different quarterback of the season, Brian Hoyer, Arizona’s 2012 first-round pick caught eight passes for 166 yards — including receptions of 37 yards (touchdown) and 53 yards.
“It was the last game of the season and we wanted to go up there and get a victory,” Floyd recalled. “Unfortunately we came up short. I had a pretty good game, but I don’t dwell on that. Last year was last year. This year is a new year.”
Maybe so, but the former Notre Dame standout’s breakout game was a sign of what was to come in 2013.
Through the first five games of this season, Floyd has 21 receptions for a team-leading 301 yards. He’s caught at least three balls every week — making him the only Arizona receiver to achieve the feat — and has grown into one of the few reliable targets in the Cardinals’ passing game.
“Michael has played extremely well,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “He gets better every day in practice I think the more he learns the understanding of the offense. One thing about offense is that it’s one thing to learn your assignments, but it’s another thing to learn why you’re doing what you’re doing.
“We still haven’t gotten all those things done. We know what we’re doing, but we don’t know why we’re doing it. Sometimes that lack of continuity shows up because of that.”
While Floyd admitted that he’s getting more and more confident working with Palmer, that lack of continuity has certainly reared its ugly head at times. For all the strides the second-year wide receiver has made this season, one area that continues to be a concern is his production in the red zone.
Floyd’s 37-yard touchdown catch at Candlestick Park in Week 17 was just his second career appearance in the end zone — a place he hasn’t reached since.
Outside of an acrobatic grab for 44 yards in the Cardinals’ 2013 season opener, Floyd, who set the Fighting Irish’s career TD receptions record (37) during his collegiate career, has not found his way inside the opponent’s four-yard line this season.
Floyd believes the touchdown drought is his own doing.
“I’d have to say myself,” he said when asked if there’s a reason why he hasn’t reached the end zone in 2013. “There have been plays out there where I should have taken advantage of and I didn’t. I blame it all on myself.
“It’s just me not making a play on the ball when it comes my way.”
Although Floyd’s critical self-assessment is somewhat refreshing, the prospect of going up against Donte Whitner, Tarell Brown and San Francisco’s secondary is not.
Over the last two weeks, the 49ers have allowed 14 combined points, picked off four passes and shut down the likes of Andre Johnson (three catches for 39 yards) and Tavon Austin (two catches for six yards).
“They’re a great group of guys,” said Floyd. “They play together real well. There’s a lot of experience back there. They only have one rookie safety [in Eric Reid], but for the most part everyone’s been in the league for quite some time. That’s a great group of guys that know the ins and outs of their defense. You have to play assignment sound against them.”