Quarterback Kurt Warner comes in to give receiver Larry Fitzgerald
a surprise hug during Fitzgerald's press conference after the Cards beat the Eagles in the NFC title game.
Last week, Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown said the one player they couldn't let beat them was Larry Fitzgerald.
Then the Cardinals' Pro Bowl wide receiver went out and caught three touchdown passes in the first half of Sunday's NFC Championship, sparking Arizona's 32-25 win and cementing Fitzgerald's status as superstar.
When the game was over, Fitzgerald had nine catches for 152 yards, the three scores -- including a 62-yard bomb on a trick play, when J.J. Arrington took a handoff and threw a backward pass to quarterback Kurt Warner, who lofted it to Fitzgerald -- and three key receptions during the Cards' game-winning touchdown drive.
"I just knew that I have to do my job and stay grounded," Fitzgerald said. "Make sure I don't get too emotional. Those kinds of things are going through my mind, to make sure I do the fundamental things."
Offensively, the Cardinals made sure the Eagles' defense coordinated by Jim Johnson didn't overwhelm them. Warner, with Anquan Boldin back in the lineup, threw four touchdown passes without an interception. And the Cards broke out some new or long-dusty plays -- besides the Arrington throwback, there was a screen to tight end Leonard Pope and some formations with Arrington and fellow back Tim Hightower in together -- to keep the Eagles off balance.
"We stayed pretty consistent, but we always game-plan," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "I think we have done real well all year trying to stay ahead."
Warner was asked about Fitzgerald and emphasized that no team makes a Super Bowl without a roster of good players.
"Larry is phenomenal," Warner said. "But we have other weapons like Anquan Boldin, who's played phenomenal for us. He's been a warrior. Steve Breaston has come on. Any success I have had is due to the great players around me."
Still, Fitzgerald -- who surpassed 100 yards receiving for a fifth straight game, including an NFL playoff record-tying third straight -- was the star Sunday.
"You bring me another receiver in the league that does what he does, you can have my car, my paycheck. That's the dude," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I will ride or die with him every time."
Hightower not only scored the game-winning touchdown Sunday on an eight-yard screen pass on third down, he came up with another big play on the drive, converting a fourth-and-1 on the Philadelphia 49-yard line when a stop might have ended the Cards' chances.
Hightower bounced outside, running parallel to the line of scrimmage before breaking upfield for six yards.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it wasn't a hard decision to go for it, and Hightower said he "knew it would be a good play" as long as fullback Terrelle Smith made his block.
"If T. Smith got his block, I knew I had daylight," Hightower said. "I didn't care what it was, I was taking it outside. You really don't want to be going lateral on fourth-and-1, but sometimes you have to take risks to have success."
Defensive end Travis LaBoy, who had been battling an ankle injury for weeks, left Sunday's game with a left bicep injury and was sporting a sling in the locker room afterward. His status will be re-evaluated, as will that of defensive end Antonio Smith, who hurt his right knee and was unable to return.