Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald fights his way over the goal line for his first touchdown of the season during the Cardinals' win over Washington.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald likes to lob good-natured barbs at his Cardinals teammates when they post big game-day performances. On Sunday afternoon, cornerback Jerraud Powers couldn't resist giving it back.
Fitzgerald played an integral role in the 30-20 victory over the Redskins, hauling in six catches for a season-high 98 yards and his first
touchdown of the year. Fitzgerald let his emotion spill out following the second-quarter score, gesturing animatedly to the crowd and celebrating with his teammates, but Powers didn't let him revel in it for too long.
"I told him, he's still got two more to catch (Texans defensive end) J.J. Watt," Powers said.
Fitzgerald started slowly this season with 13 catches for 164 yards over his first four games, but was quarterback Carson Palmer's main target much of the time against Washington. He caught every pass thrown his way and would have been over the 100-yard mark had a 19-yard second-quarter catch not been called back for holding.
On the touchdown strike, he caught a slant near the first down marker on 2nd-and-10 and shed two tacklers for the 24-yard score.
"Mentally, I've always prepared myself for a big day," Fitzgerald said. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I take my same approach every single week, every single day. That doesn't change. I believe in the way we work as a team. I believe the way I prepare is the right way. That's not going to change."
The Cardinals have been careful not to force-feed the ball to Fitzgerald this season, happy to hit other receivers if they are more open. There have been many times when Fitzgerald's routes have sucked in two defenders, resulting in big gains somewhere else.
Coach Bruce Arians said afterward it's nice that on this day, Fitzgerald was the one to take advantage of the defensive scheme.
"I was extremely pleased," Arians said. "I mean, you're always happy for anybody, but with Larry, sometimes the numbers don't add up the way he plays. He's always been playing great games."
TYRANN MATHIEU A DEFENSIVE FIXTURE
Tyrann Mathieu saw significant action for the first time since tearing two knee ligaments last December, lining up mostly at safety instead of switching between there and slot cornerback like last year.
He finished with four tackles and a fumble recovery after playing only 15 snaps on defense last week against the Broncos.
"He's gotten better and better," Arians said. "He's getting more used to the brace. Nothing's wrong with him, he's just learning how to play with a brace on. When you play the position that he plays, any lack of mobility frustrates you, especially him because he is cat quick."
On the fumble recovery, Washington wide receiver Andre Roberts was stripped by Powers and the ball bounced into Mathieu's waiting hands. He ran down the right sidelines but gave himself up as the Redskins players surrounded him. Mathieu hurt his knee last season while trying to gain extra yards on a kick return, and said that play flashed through his head.
"It was very reminiscent of last year when I was trying to make everybody miss, so I just got my ass down," Mathieu said.
The fumble was controversial, as Roberts thought his knee was on the ground before the ball came loose. The rule on the field was a fumble, and the replays did not conclusively refute that. The Cardinals took over on the Washington 27 and Chandler Catanzaro hit a 37-yard field goal to push the lead to 23-13.
"I felt like when I was (watching) on the screen, I was down," Roberts said. "But I'm not making the call."
CAN'T STOP THE CAT-MAN
Catanzaro hit field goals from 33, 49 and 37 yards in the second half, raising his consecutive made streak to 14 on the season. The rookie out of Clemson has yet to miss a kick in the NFL.
The most important was the longest, when he pushed the lead to seven points with 12:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. A miss would have kept it a four-point game and handed Washington good field position.
"I know there's probably going to be some adversity throughout the season, but I'm looking forward to being the rock out there that my team needs me to be," Catanzaro said.
PENALTIES HURT, TURNOVERS HELP IN VICTORY
The Cardinals still haven't thrown an interception this season and didn't fumble, either, winning the turnover battle 4-0. That was the good. The bad on Sunday were the penalties, 14 of them for 108 yards, both season highs by a wide margin.
Arians was displeased with the miscues, especially the way they limited the offense.
"It's got to be cleaned up," he said. "We had red zone penalties again, last week and this week. They are inexcusable. To go down there, drive down there and then jump offsides and get yourself behind the chains is just bad."