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Larry Fitzgerald's Playoff Magic Returns

Star wideout catches eight passes for 176 yards and game-winning touchdown against Packers


Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looks for running room during his 75-yard reception in overtime.

The University of Phoenix Stadium crowd started roaring before the ball ever hit his hands.

Larry Fitzgerald just didn't notice.

"When you're playing, you can't hear anything," said the Cardinals wide receiver, a playoff hero once again. "It's like everything is going in slow motion."

That must have been how the Packers defenders felt, as they tried in vain to corral Fitzgerald on the first play of overtime. He caught a broken-play throw from Carson Palmer and didn't go down until 75 yards later, a catch-and-run which reminded many of his Super Bowl XLIII sprint past a pair of Steelers safeties.

This one had more bobbing and weaving and didn't result in a touchdown, but he took care of that two plays later on a 5-yard, game-ending score.

Seven years after leading the Cardinals on a thrilling postseason ride, the 32-year-old veteran accumulated eight catches, 176 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 26-20 win over the Packers in the NFC Divisional Round.

"He's still that man," linebacker Kevin Minter said.

Fitzgerald had a quiet first half against the Packers, hauling in just one pass for six yards. The Cardinals offense was dormant into the third quarter, until he singlehandedly woke it up. Fitzgerald took a four-yard pass on first down, and then picked up 32 more on a deep pass down the sideline.

After the completion, he gestured demonstrably to the crowd, trying to get some energy back into a lifeless building.

"I know my team feeds off my energy and feeds off my play, and I just try to make sure I'm making plays to build the energy and build the confidence of the group," Fitzgerald said. "Because we were a little flat."

The Cardinals scored a field goal on that possession and had control late in the fourth until an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary forced overtime as the clock struck zero. Then it was time for Fitzgerald's heroics.

The long catch-and-run put the Cardinals in position for a win, but after a fade attempt for him fell incomplete, the offense still needed a touchdown to avoid giving the Packers the ball back.

On the next play, Palmer had the option of throwing to a wide receiver to the right or pitching it to Fitzgerald up the middle. The veteran quarterback read the Green Bay defense correctly and flipped it to Fitzgerald for the easy score.

"We've been trying to use it," Palmer said. "It came up at the most opportunistic time."

Fitzgerald finished with more than 150 postseason receiving yards for the third time in his career, the only player to do so in NFL history. He's also the fastest to 10 career playoff touchdown receptions.

Fitzgerald was an unstoppable playoff force in the prime of his career, and just as he excelled throughout the regular season, the face of the franchise showed he can still be a postseason monster.

"It was very appropriate for him to finish the game that way, especially to finish the game in the end zone to get the win," Palmer said. "He means so much to this team and to this community."

Fitzgerald, defensive tackle Calais Campbell and center Lyle Sendlein are the final holdovers from the Cardinals team which made it to the Super Bowl. They'd love to give a whole new cast of teammates the experience, and now the Cardinals are one win away from getting back.

If not for the dreadlocked receiver who the crowd loves to chant for, the team would not have been in this position.

"When you get to the nitty gritty, you're going to run your prize horse," Sendlein said. "Larry's special. He shines in the most clutch moments."

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