Larry Fitzgerald was open.
He was open a few times against the Rams, down the field early when rookie Ryan Lindley missed him down the left sideline. He was open when Lindley woefully underthrew a pass near the Cardinals’ sideline that was intercepted. He was open down the field on another interception and again on a play that could have gotten big yards but didn’t because a line mistake led to a sack.
Fitzgerald made three receptions for 31 yards on the Cards’ first drive but couldn’t get a catch after that. It’s been a brutal stretch of late for Fitz in terms of production, and when Fitzgerald is open and can’t get the ball, the frustration is there fore everyone involved.
“It’s hard, because you don’t know how much goes in to trying to work to get these situations, and then when you do get them and they come up and you have it there and we don’t execute on it …,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, leaving the end of the thought to the obvious.
“You have a chance to make a layup, you work hard to get it, and the ball bounces out,” Whisenhunt added. “You’re frustrated that you didn’t get it done, something that you think is, I won’t say simple, but something you put a lot of work into doing and you expect to do it. There are a lot of those things that happen that people don’t see.”
Whisenhunt’s example was the sack, in which Lindley had to slide to his left because of a blocking mistake, costing him a clean look at the open Fitzgerald down the field. “You look at that play, and it’s something that you work to set up and Larry’s behind everybody and that’s where Ryan is going to go with it but we have a breakdown. That’s been happening too much to us.”
Fitzgerald isn’t going to say anything. He talked after the game about not pointing fingers and refusing — even after Lindley took the blame on missing Fitzgerald on a couple of passes — to throw Lindley under the bus. Even generally, when asked about the frustration about getting open but being unable to get the ball, Fitz wouldn’t bite.
“It’s football,” he said. “Things happen. Assignments are missed. When I’m perfect, I can start calling people out on their flaws and mistakes. But I’m not. We have to do a better job offensively executing when we have our opportunities.”
Fitz isn’t perfect. Fitz, according to Stats Pass, has three drops this season. Obviously he couldn’t come up with that one at the end of the Atlanta game, although the Stats people didn’t consider that a drop; they give him one each in each of the two Rams’ games, and one against the 49ers.
Still, what resonates as a Fitzgerald memory up until this point this season is an opening and then a pass too far over his head or too far out of bounds for him to make the play. Mike Sando broke down the targets to Fitz from the Cards’ three QBs; while Kevin Kolb couldn’t get it to Fitz all the time (61.5 percent completions of Fitz targets), the duo of Lindley and John Skelton have missed Fitzgerald on 34 of 57 targets. Lindley in his brief time has throws Fitz’s way 17 times but completed just four passes (with three interceptions.) Lindley had his misses against the Rams and Skelton — who had a few throws to Fitz out of bounds down the sideline over the weeks — had the now infamous miss of the open Fitz in the end zone.
Thus far, Fitz has just 55 catches for 627 yards, a pace for 80 receptions (which would equal last year) but just 912 yards, 499 yards less than last season. If he wants to complain — and goodness knows those of us asking the questions have given him multiple chances to do so — he has shown remarkable restraint in not.
“Larry’s been great,” Whisenhunt said. “He works hard every day. He wants to be successful and it hurts him when he’s not. We are all frustrated, but it hasn’t affected Larry from the standpoint of how he has dealt with his teammates, how he works in practice, the positive things he talks with the quarterbacks.
“Listen, he wants the ball. He comes over and talks about things during the game. (But) he is a true professional.”
Tags: John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Lindley
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