The last time the Cardinals played in Houston in a game that counted, Larry Fitzgerald was only 22 years old, in the days when the Cards never talked about the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. Fitz was asked this week about a 12-yard touchdown pass he caught in the game – a loss to a Texans team so bad they ended up with the No. 1 overall draft pick – and it took him no time to recall that it was the great John Navarre who threw him the pass.
“I have a photographic memory,” Fitzgerald said. “Slant route in garbage time. Fantasy owners were happy.”
Fitz proceeded to say he remembers almost every catch he’s ever made, and that’s quite a few. I mean, that’s 1,185 in his career and counting – a number that came into even sharper focus Friday morning with Fitz’s contract extension through 2018. As I said before, it’s good he’s under contract but for me, it doesn’t guarantee Fitz playing next season. Good sign, yes. But until I hear it from his mouth – I am guessing it will be a topic postgame Sunday – I can’t go all in.
This season, though, Fitzgerald is here and playing very well. If you can have a quiet 10-113 as a receiver, Fitz did last week against the Seahawks. With Blaine Gabbert starting Sunday, I’m guessing the new QB will lean on Fitz targets again, both because, duh, he’s a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but also because of the troubles the pass catchers not named Fitz had with drops/near-catches against Seattle.
— It made a lot of sense all week that Gabbert would get the nod to play Sunday. He’s healthy. Drew Stanton is not. Bruce Arians wanted to keep Stanton in the lineup, and I do agree with B.A. that Stanton played pretty well against Seattle. Gabbert is playing because of injury but I also understand the idea of getting a chance to see what Gabbert can do, in this offense, in a game that counts.
— Fitz was asked if Gabbert’s success in the preseason gives him confidence in the new QB. It led to a long pause. “I’ve been in it a long time,” Fitzgerald finally said. “Preseason is preseason. I’ve seen him have success in regular-season games.”
— Interesting (to me, at least) that the Cards become the first team to start three QBs this season, given that it comes against the Texans. The long-ago loss in Houston, in which Navarre found Fitz? It was the only time the Cardinals have played three quarterbacks in a game. Kurt Warner started, completed all 10 of his passes (Fitz isn’t the only one who remembers all this stuff off the top of his head) before exiting with a knee injury. Josh McCown was the backup and came in, but he was horribly ill that day and he couldn’t continue. So the Cards turned to Navarre.
— Arians was asked about those receivers this week after the struggles they had collectively. “Practice is fine,” he said. “When those lights turn on … it’s going to be a big week for them.”
— The Cardinals have only played the Texans three times in the regular season. The loss in 2005, and the Cardinals getting home wins in 2009 and 2013.
— Stanton hurt his right knee when he was hit low by Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was flagged on the play (and it kept alive the TD drive that ended with the Stanton TD screen pass to Jermaine Gresham). Richardson was fined $18,231 for his play, and was not happy about it. Also fined $18,231 was Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for the hit to Russell Wilson’s jaw. Dansby is appealing, and the Seahawks are still dealing with the fallout for not properly checking Wilson for a concussion.
— Corey Peters has been solid in the middle of the defensive line this season. Not having him in the lineup is notable. The Texans are going to want to run to protect struggling QB Tom Savage. We will see who plugs the middle of the line.
— The Texans are putting former all-pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, their version of Fitz, into their Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday. Current star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was asked to name his favorite Johnson play. It turned out he named a reception over Patrick Peterson in Arizona in 2013.
Late in the game, Johnson was blanketed by Peterson, who actually got his hand on the ball and looked like he might get an amazing end zone interception. Instead, the ball bounced and Johnson somehow tipped it to himself and kept his feet in. (Here, look for yourself, around the 52-second mark.)
“I don’t know how he caught it,” Hopkins said.
— Fitz on Johnson: “He exudes class. He’s one of the best to ever do it. This is just a precursor to greater things down the road. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. I’m happy as a fan of his to witness and see it go up.”
— One final Fitz note. It was mentioned in his “A Football Life” episode that he buys suits for all the coaches. Fitzgerald said he’s been doing that “forever.”
“Our success on the field, it says our numbers, but those guys spend hours … (assistant head coach) Tom Moore is here at 4 o’clock in the morning every morning figuring out new innovate ways to be able to feature guys like myself and Adrian (Peterson),” Fitz said. “A lot of hard work was put into those schemes and you want to do right by those guys.”
“They all get custom stuff, make sure they look good. Some of them look better than others.”
See you in Houston.
Tags: Andre Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Corey Peters, DeAndre Hopkins, Drew Stanton, John Navarre, Josh McCown, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Russell Wilson, Sheldon Richardson, Texans, Tom Moore, Tom Savage
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Multiple reports Saturday morning (first by Chris Mortensen) say Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton sprained his knee against the Seahawks Thursday night. Everyone could see the play — it came at the tail end of the first quarter, when Seahawks defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson hit Stanton low on an incomplete pass. Richardson was flagged for roughing the passer, one of a handful of penalties the Cards had on their initial touchdown drive. Stanton threw a TD pass on a screen to tight end Jermaine Gresham two plays later. In fact, Stanton played the rest of the game, throwing 47 passes, although he was clearly favoring the leg at times.
The Cardinals will reportedly re-sign Matt Barkley as a third-stringer, which makes sense because Barkley spent a season with the Cards in 2015. (UPDATE: Barkley tweeted Saturday night he was back with the Cardinals.)
Meanwhile, Blaine Gabbert could get a start or two depending on Stanton’s health. The Cardinals don’t play again until a week from Sunday in Houston. That would certainly resonate with the part of the fan base who have been begging for Gabbert to play. It doesn’t sound like Stanton has been ruled out for the Texans game. Players are off until Tuesday, so there will likely be a few days before this is officially addressed and even longer, I would think, before Stanton’s status for the next game is sorted out.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley, Sheldon Richardson
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