Revisionist History: Fitz’s magical month

Posted by Darren Urban on July 6, 2011 – 4:19 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

The accomplishments certainly weren’t lost as the Cardinals went on their most exciting month-long journey ever back in the first few weeks of 2009, but I’m not totally sure what Larry Fitzgerald was doing in the playoffs that year could have been completely appreciated given the circumstances.

As the wins came and the Super Bowl got closer, talking just about one player didn’t make sense (let’s not get it twisted – Fitz still got plenty of attention over those five weeks of the postseason, and I just thumbed through his clip file if I hadn’t remembered).  When you go back and think, however, it almost started innocently against the Falcons.

At that point, the Cards just wanted to win a playoff game, after the 2-5 slide on which they entered the postseason. Fitz had 101 yards on six receptions that day, including an acrobatic catch in double-coverage for a 42-yard touchdown. But that was early, and the moments burned more harsh in the brain were things like Anquan Boldin’s 71-yard catch-and-run TD on which he came up hurt, the Dockett/Rolle combo that created a fumble for a touchdown, and tight end Stephen Spach’s game-clinching catch.

Fitz had nice numbers, but that was supposed to happen.

The next game, though, that’s when the momentum began to build. And when Fitz truly exploded.

Boldin was injured. The Cards were on the road in Carolina. And yet Fitzgerald ran roughshod, finishing with 166 yards on eight catches, with 122 of those yards coming when there was still five minutes left in the first half and the Cards were in complete control. He caught another bomb in double-coverage. He did whatever he wanted against the Panthers (who shouldn’t have been surprised; he had seven receptions for 115 yards when the teams met earlier in the season in Carolina and instead they looked like they had no idea how to deal with him). When Fitz scored his TD – an amazing effort on a crossing route in which he dove for the pylon and scored – it was still the first half and yet it felt like an exclamation point had already been stamped on the game.

His numbers were incredible. The Eagles knew this. They insisted during the week they would not let Fitzgerald go off. A noble pursuit. Yet at that point, impossible to back up with actions. Fitzgerald had three touchdown catches in the first half (he finished with nine receptions for 152 yards). The Eagles slowed him down in the second half, but he had done enough damage. It had reached the expectation that Fitzgerald was certain to get 125 yards in a game, that every jump ball would be his, that he could do no wrong and would carry the team all the way to a title. I mean, Boldin was back for the Eagles, but at that moment, Fitz was alone in the receiving stratosphere, not only on his own team but the entire league. There was no question.

(Well, I guess there was some question. But what is the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl about if not hyperbole.)

In the Super Bowl, Fitz had just one catch in the first three quarters. He had finally been tamed by the famed Steel Curtain. Except he wasn’t, suddenly going off in the final 15 minutes during the Cards’ furious rally, coming up with six receptions and capping it all with that magical 64-yard catch-and-run that seemed destined to be the highlight to signify the Cards’ improbable championship. Then it wasn’t, instead a reminder of what could have been.

The loss didn’t take away from what Fitzgerald did, however. He had seven more catches for 127 yards in the game and he had played so well for so long some were even marveling about the plays he almost made. He set playoff records for catches (30), yards (546) and TDs (7). It was a performance for the ages. “A lot of those playoff catches, he had guys draped over him and he was just making plays,” fellow wideout Steve Breaston said at the time. “You did kind of wonder: When was anyone going to stop him?”

That postseason, the answer was never.

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21 Responses to “Revisionist History: Fitz’s magical month”

  1. By cheesebeef on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    that was the most dominating playoffs any player has ever had IMO. I’ve never seen someone on just that much of a higher level than EVERYONE else on the field. I mean, even on the 64 yard TD… can anyone remember ANY time in all of Fitz’s career where he literally just burned rubber leaving everyone in the dust like that? He was super-human during those playoffs and to this day, I believe that if Kurt had just gotten that last pass off, somehow, someway, Fitz was going to rocket into the stratosphere to catch the Hail Mary, win the the Super Bowl and finish what would have been the single most impressive playoffs ever recorded in the history of pro-sports… better than anything Jordan ever did… better than anything Babe Ruth ever did… better than everyone… ugh… if only we had given Kurt .5 more seconds there.

  2. By Darren Urban on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    Cheese —

    RE: Fitz playoff

    I have to admit, I wanted to write what I did, but there was some trepidation over picking at the scab … looking back over the clips for the Super Bowl, not a ton of fun.

  3. By Devon L on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    That Superbowl run was one of the greatest and most epic things I have ever witnessed. I went to the NFC championship game and we tried to make it hell for Mcnabb and his offense. I think we succeeded. The Superbowl loss was also one of the most painful things though.

  4. By Pablo on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    And no mention for Warner? Fitz was stunning, no doubt about that, but I would like to point out also that almost every pass thrown to him was at the wright time, at the wright spot. Give warner a little more credit,please.
    I don’t say anithing more about the excellent job of everybody on the team,because I understand that you’re putting the focus on Larry’s work.
    Great post,anyway !!

  5. By brad oneill on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    that was the greatest game/superbowl of all time as far as im concerned. yes i would have loved for the cards to do the impossible and win it all but you have to remember we were the worst team in the history of the playoffs at that time. yet we fought with the steelers until the very last second. they seemed to be getting the calls, but we were making plays. if that game had gone 15 more minutes it probably would have changed the lead 4 more times.

  6. By Pablo on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    I would also like to highlight that several decissions by the officials were deadly for the cards. I’m absolutely convinced that without those mistakes the Cards would have won that SuperBowl. True that Arizona entered slow in the game, and Pittsburhg’s last drive was poorly defended, but the Cards showed they would have beaten the Steelers 7 out of 10 times…with the correct decisions by the officials !

  7. By Javi on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    what will be the cards strategy in order to win the superbowl this year darren?

  8. By Jim in Missouri on Jul 6, 2011 | Reply

    I hear ya, Darren.

    I have been a Cardinals fan since the mid-1970s, so I was long ago resigned to the fact that I’d never see them anywhere close to a Super Bowl. In 2008, I was just happy to be in the playoffs … then just happy to win a playoff game … then in the Super Bowl? Again, just happy (and stunned) to be there.

    When Fitz scored that TD to put the Cardinals in front, and I explained to my wife and kids about him as a person and how he grew his hair long as a tribute to his mother because she lost her hair during the cancer treatments, and they knew all about Warner as a person, I had to fight to keep from crying. My emotions were hitting me hard, thinking back over the last 30-plus years and what they were on the verge of.

    Then when it ended like it did, it knocked the wind out of me like I’ve never experienced before or since. I felt like I took a baseball bat to the grapes. And I looked over at my then-10-year-old son, and he had tears rolling down his cheeks. He’s not even a Cardinals fan, but he had heard me talk about where the team was and how far they had come and he was overcome by the emotion of it all.

    I know this has little to do with your Fitz blog, but it’s good therapy, so thanks for letting me lay on your virtual couch and talk things out …

  9. By Ven aka. ninjamonkey on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    oh i remember that TD so vividly i really thought we won the Super bowl at that moment I was at the fox and hound jumping up and down with a huge smile on my face giving high five’s to every person in the bar. such an amazing moment such a sad ending. we should of won.

  10. By Eazy E on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Darren, it is Larry Fitzgerald you are talking about!?!? The Panthers weren’t going to stop him, nobody was that postseason, he dominated like no other receiver dominated before in the playoffs that year including Jerry Rice whose numbers he shattered.

  11. By Brandon on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    What could’ve been had Kurt been able to get that last ball off…

  12. By cdubbbbbb on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    I’m cryin right now

  13. By Thomas77 on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    I know this was about Fitz…but man, I miss Kurt….

  14. By K-DUB on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply


    Do you have any knowledge if the any of the rookie cardinals did the camleback mountain hike since John Lott couldn’t take them?

  15. By Darren Urban on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    K-Dub —

    RE: Rookies and Camelback

    I don’t think so. I would highly doubt that would be a trip any of them would take on their own. A veteran or two would have had to take them without Lott leading the way, and most veterans (save for Clark Haggans) have no desire to revisit Camelback after their rookie summer.

  16. By Scott H on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Ah, good times, indeed….Fitz’s magical month was also THE most magical month of my life as a fan of this team and that goes back to the mid 70’s!

  17. By Artie on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    that was a great article about Fitz and the doubters, thanks for adding that one too. I just wish I could watch some of the coaches tape so I could see Fitzgerald hitting some db’s in the back of the head, I’m sure it would be great to see!!

  18. By joe67 on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    Is there anyplace to get a disc of that playoff run?? I would luv to see those games again!!

  19. By Scott H on Jul 10, 2011 | Reply

    joe67 –

    NFL Films released a documentary-type DVD of the Cardinals 2008 NFC Championship season that I jumped on first chance I got. It doesn’t have complete games, of course, but it gives a pretty good look at the WHOLE season, from training camp all the way through the SB. You can find on e-bay, I’m sure, if not available anymore.

  20. By bluepitt on Jul 13, 2011 | Reply

    Fitz did great that is a fact. But Q getting us that TD VS ATL was equally important (24-30) take away Q’s TD and we watch the rest! Larry did carry us VS the Panthers that is a fact! He balled over the eagles!!!!!! I do remember the play that sparked our Cards and as usual it was Q who did it! “2nd and 7 at PIT 46 K.Warner pass deep right to A.Boldin to PIT 1 for 45 yards (R.Clark). ” It was then! We were stale prior to Q trying to run over the Squeelers on that pass he jumped up and did his usual hulk!!! I remember all of our players getting stoked and you could just see the faces turn and believe that we can play these boys!!!! What a great Game!!!

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