SportsPulse: A quarter of the season is in the books. The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans would probably like a redo. Mackenzie Salmon reveals our biggest risers and fallers in this week’s power rankings.
He’s played in a record-high 254 career games with the Cardinals, has made 87 straight starts dating back to the 2014 season, and he’s caught at least one pass in 247 consecutive games and counting.
But never in Larry Fitzgerald’s 17 NFL seasons has he had such a miserable two-game stretch as he has now.
In back-to-back losses to the Lions and Panthers, Fitzgerald has caught a combined three catches for just 4 yards. He had one reception for no gain against Detroit and two receptions against Carolina, one for 6 yards and another for a 2-yard loss.
It’s not as if Fitzgerald has suddenly lost it overnight. He caught seven passes during Arizona’s Week 3 victory over Washington. He’s still getting almost the same amount of offensive snaps as teammate DeAndre Hopkins.
September 13, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Kyle Terada, Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
But here’s the difference: Hopkins has been targeted a team-high 46 times by quarterback Kyler Murray and although Fitzgerald has been targeted the second-most times, only 18 passes have been thrown his way through four games. That’s one more than running back Chase Edmonds and four more than No.3 receiver Christian Kirk, who sat out the Detroit game.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said after Fitzgerald’s one-catch, no-gain performance against the Lions. “When he’s getting the football, good things happens. That’s completely on me.
“He had one of the best camps of anybody on the team. He played great in the first two games, was getting open. I just did a poor job of getting him the ball.”
Kingsbury also promised this: “He’ll have a prominent role moving forward.”
Just like the Detroit game, however, Fitzgerald was targeted only three times against Carolina. Only twice before have the numbers ever been comparably this bad over a two-week stretch.
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Last year, during a win at the Giants and a loss at the Saints, Fitzgerald caught a combined three passes for 20 yards. In 2012, during losses at the Jets and Seahawks, he finished with a combined two receptions for 25 yards. But he’s never had back-to-back games with as few as 4 combined receiving yards – until now.
On Monday, Kingsbury met with reporters again to rehash the Cardinals’ 31-21 loss to the Panthers and the first question he faced was about Fitzgerald and his lack of targets, especially since Kingsbury said the 37-year-old would have a more prominent role.
Kingsbury admittedly said the situation has become frustrating.
“Yeah, it is,” he said.