Larry Fitzgerald is a humble man. Has been that way his whole career. He's smart enough to know that he doesn't need to talk about how good he really is when others are going to do it (like this blog post, for instance.) But there are times when Fitz's feelings seep out a bit, like after Sunday's game when he was asked about catching a pair of bombs -- 41 yards and 45 yards -- down the field.
Throw up some 50-50 balls, Fitz said, and "I'm gonna make some plays."
It wasn't just what he said but how he said it. Fitzgerald is a proud man. He knows he can still produce on the NFL level, even down the field -- he wouldn't be back for a 16th season if he didn't think so. His performance against Detroit just drives that reality home. It's also the reason I felt, ever since watching this team go through OTAs and minicamp, that the induction of Kliff Kingsbury's offense (and Kyler Murray's arrival) would be a boon for yet another Fitz revival.
Fitzgerald believes if you throw him the ball he'll get it. Maybe the defender will be right there. Maybe two defenders. But he thinks he'll get that catch.
"Even when the guy’s plastered right on him he’s like, ‘Just throw it to me, and I’ll catch it.’ That’s what he does," Kingsbury said. "We’re going to keep trying to use him as best we can. He has a knack for making plays in big moments. Obviously, he’s done it his whole career. To see it live in person that was pretty awesome.”
Down-the-field throws had pretty much dried up for Fitz. The last time he had a catch of at least 40 yards came all the way back on Oct. 18, 2015 in Pittsburgh, when he hauled in a 44-yarder. The longest reception he had made since then was 37 yards. The 45-yard catch is the longest for Fitz since he had an 80-yard catch-and-run TD against the Eagles in 2014.
And there were degrees of difficulty for both Lions bombs (which was obvious by the dives both needed and the way Fitz adjust his head to find the ball mid-flight.) Nextgenstats.nfl.com put the catches among the most improbable of the NFL weekend, giving Fitz a 25 percent chance to bring in the 45-yard pass and a 22.5 percent chance at the 41-yard catch.
That's a lot less than 50-50. And why Fitzgerald is a guy Murray figures to lean on all season.
"I pride myself on that," Fitzgerald said. "I work extremely hard on that in practice everyday. Not just me. ... Kyler has the confidence to throw it up, and we’re damn sure going make those plays for him.”