Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes his game-tying touchdown catch during Sunday's 13-10 win.
TAMPA, FLA. – For a half, Larry Fitzgerald didn't catch a pass. For a half, the Cardinals didn't even throw his way.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver wasn't going to say anything.
"You know you're a playmaker, you're used to being involved," Fitzgerald said. "I'm not one to ever complain or say anything. That's just not my demeanor. I just said to myself, 'when I get my opportunity I have to capitalize.' "
That came with the very first offensive play of the second half, a nine-yard pass to Fitzgerald. In the end the Cardinals targeted Fitzgerald nine times in the second half. He caught six for 68 yards, including the game-tying touchdown – and not coincidentally, the Cards ended up pulling out a 13-10 win against the Buccaneers.
"He was involved (in the first half), they just did a couple of things to limit his touches," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "You can't try to get him the ball when there is not much to get him involved with the way they are playing."
Fitzgerald was being covered by star cornerback Darelle Revis, who did end up with an interception during the game. "There's a
reason he gets paid $90 million," Fitzgerald quipped, but the Cards adjusted to get Fitzgerald the ball.
Fitzgerald also beat Revis on the touchdown pass, selling a fade to the corner before bursting inside on a slant.
"They bracketed him some in the first half and we didn't have the right plays called at times," Coach Bruce Arians said. "He got frustrated because he wants the ball and I definitely want him to have it."
Fitzgerald was disappointed with the overall offensive performance -- he called it "inexcusable" – but wore a wide smile as he gave hugs in the immediate aftermath of the postgame locker room following the win.
"That was some ugly ball in the first half," Fitzgerald said. "I'm so thankful. Guys played their tail off. It was great to get a team victory."
OFFENSIVE ISSUES OVERCOME
The Cardinals were bad on offense for the first half, struggles that had seemingly carried over from the game in New Orleans. After scoring on the opening possession against the Saints, the Cards didn't score again until Jay Feely's field goal with less than 12 minutes to go Sunday.
"We didn't play offensive as near well as we could on third down but in the second half we moved the chains," Arians said.
At the half the Cards only had 87 yards, and only went 1-for-10 on third-down conversions in the game. But in the fourth quarter, the unit did enough. Palmer ended up completing 7-of-12 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter, with a passer rating of 108.3.
"It was a dog fight," Palmer said. "In the first half we just couldn't get it going. … We were just fortunate enough offensively that our defense played well enough to give us a chance."
THE "PREDATOR" GETS HIS FIRST SACK
Arians said he predicted new linebacker Dontay Moch would get two sacks in his Cardinals' debut Sunday. Moch only was able to get his first NFL sack, but it was a big one.
Moch sacked rookie quarterback Mike Glennon back at his own 1-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game, setting up a short punt that led to the Cardinals' game-winning field goal.
"I thought I was going to get the first one (earlier) but he let the ball go," Moch said. "I did get a big hit on him though so he knew my presence was there. But one is a good building block.
"Sometimes you just have to step up when it's due, and that was a good time to make things happen."
During the week, Moch, talking about his strengths, said "I'm the predator, not the prey."
"I knew he would show up," Arians said. "I thought we pressured (Glennon) all day."
Running back Rashard Mendenhall struggled from the outset, when he was throw a swing pass on the second play of the game and dropped it. Later Medenhall nearly fumbled the ball away but was called down (replays showed it was close, but the Buccaneers did not challenge the play), but it didn't matter when Mendenhall fumbled the ball away on the very next play.
But the play that got Arians upset came late on what turned into the Cardinals' game-winning field-goal drive. Trying to run out the clock, Mendenhall ran parallel to the line of scrimmage and nearly was shoved out of bounds to stop the clock. Luckily – and perhaps on purpose – Mendenhall fumbled the ball out of bounds first. The clock was still running, forcing the Bucs to call timeout anyway.
"Rashard had a very tough day" Arians said. "He can't play that way. He can't run out of bounds. He's a veteran. He can't make that mistake. That was the worst mistake he made all game. That's not like him. We've been too easy on him in practice because of his injuries. He need to hone him up, because he's not game ready."
INJURY BUG DOESN'T GO AWAY
The Cardinals lost four more players during the game Sunday, although the extent of the injuries are unknown.
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (groin), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin), linebacker Vic So'oto (concussion) and guard Daryn Colledge (leg) all left the game and did not return.