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Hitting Fitz

Posted Sep 28, 2011

Cards continue to try to find ways to get ball to Pro Bowl wideout

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hauls in one of his five catches last Sunday in Seattle.

As if there wasn’t already enough riding on the Cardinals’ need to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, now it will impact breast cancer research.

The Cardinals’ Pro Bowl wide receiver said he will donate $1,000 for every catch in the month of October – breast cancer awareness month – and $10,000 for every touchdown he scores. It’s a noble gesture, something that probably was shorted a season ago when the Cards were shuffling through quarterbacks.

Kevin Kolb is the unquestioned QB now. But he is going through the same thing every one of his predecessors has, including Kurt Warner: Finding ways to hit Fitz.

Fitzgerald has 15 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns in three games, a pace (80-1,381-11) that, at least reception-wise, is lower than anyone would like. Fitzgerald started hot in Seattle, with five catches for 64 yards in the first half, but then he was shut out in the second half and the Cards’ offense sputtered.

“Man, if I showed you our coaches’ playcall sheet, coaches are doing everything in their power to get me the ball,” Fitzgerald said.

The Cardinals want Fitzgerald to have the ball. At the same time, they try to use a read-progression passing game where the openings in the defense dictate where the pass goes.

“As the flow of the game goes, you’re not focused so much on particularly (finding Fitzgerald),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “You want to sustain drives and move the ball and score points. Had we executed what was there, we would have done that and we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

The Cardinals had a stretch of possessions in the second half that lasted five, three, five and three plays. It stands to reason, had the Cards stretched out those possessions, Fitzgerald would have figured in eventually.

Then again, there is an argument that they could have lasted longer had Fitzgerald caught a pass – although he was the recipient of a quick screen in the first half on second-and-1 that Fitzgerald couldn’t convert, and the Cards ended up punting.

“Kevin is doing a good job not forcing it, because that’s not what you want to do,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously I am a focal point of this offense – one of the focal points of this offense – but forcing the ball creates turnovers and we don’t want to do that.

“When we get favorable matchups and my number is called, they expect me to win, and I expect myself to win, and that’s what I plan to do. But if we’re not getting the looks that are favorable, he has to go other places with the football and that’s the smart thing to do.”

That’s the mindset the entire offense has tried to take. Early Doucet, the team’s second leading receiver (10 catches, 175 yards), said it would be a mistake for anybody to get caught up in who is getting the ball and who is not.

“Any time you have a guy like Fitz on the field you want to try to get him the ball,” Doucet said. “But I know for us as a group, our goal is to ‘Do your job.’ ”

It’s a balance, because the Cardinals are better off when Fitzgerald has opportunities. The team’s lone touchdown came on what frankly be seen as a force by Kolb, when the quarterback was running for his life and heaved it up into the corner of the end zone while two Seahawk defenders blanketed Fitzgerald.

Improbably – or maybe not so much -- Fitzgerald made the spectacular catch.

“We have to give him the ball a little bit more,” Kolb said. “We’ll move him around, do some certain things to get him some better matchups.

“We’ll just do what we can to keep spreading it around, take what the defense gives us, but also get it in his hands because he makes big plays for us.”

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