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Pasch Factor: Crazy Game, And Fitz

Looking at the NFC Championship and what it would mean for the face of the franchise

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Everybody loves lists.

Top five Quarterbacks of all time. Top 10 NFL teams of all time. Last week's win over the Packers made the top of my list as the craziest game I've ever seen. The previous Cardinals-Packers playoff game from 2009 was top five on that list, but nothing can, or will ever top last weekend. From the Hail Mary to the coin that wouldn't flip to the Cardinals win in overtime. I don't think I will ever in my lifetime see a wilder game.

Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald solidified his position as the greatest Arizona Cardinal of all-time. There are Hall of Famers and Ring of Honor members from Cardinals' teams in the past, but since the club moved

to the desert, no Cardinal has been better, or meant more to the Valley of the Sun, than Fitz. What he did in overtime enhanced his legacy, and moved him, in my opinion, to the first ballot for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Now, it's on to Carolina. For the third time in the last seven years, the Cardinals visit the Panthers in the postseason. The stakes are at the highest level this go around. Cam Newton vs. Carson Palmer. The Panthers' front seven vs. the Cardinals' offensive line. Big Red vs. Sir Purr (I love mascots). And, of course, Fitzgerald and the Cardinals' deep receiving corps against Carolina's secondary and defensive player of the year candidate, cornerback Josh Norman.

Many, including me, were not convinced Fitzgerald could do what he did in the regular season at age 32 (109 receptions, 1,215 yards), and then will a team to victory in the post-season the way he did last Saturday. What about a repeat performance in Charlotte? After all, when the Cardinals captured their biggest road win in franchise history, with a 33-13 win in the 2008 Super Bowl run, it was Fitz leading the way against the Panthers. Larry had 166 receiving yards, and an amazing touchdown, where he stretched out to get the ball inside the pylon, as the Cardinals went up 27-7 just before halftime.

That touchdown encapsulated Larry's career, in two ways. He showed heart, courage, and strength to get that ball into the end zone, something we see on a regular basis with Fitz. Perhaps, even more important, his touchdown provided the emotional spark to instill belief that the Cardinals belonged in the Super Bowl. The Fitzgerald dominance carried over to the NFC Championship game, when he caught three touchdowns as the Cardinals beat Philadelphia. And who could forget the "Looking up at the Jumbotron touchdown" to give the Cardinals the lead late in Super Bowl 43.

In order for Arizona to win this Sunday night, there's no doubt quarterback Carson Palmer needs to play better, although he was terrific in overtime. The offensive line needs to protect and block better against the Panthers' defense. The Cardinals' defense needs to find a way to contain Cam Newtown, and cover Tight end Greg Olsen. Those will all be important factors in the game. I'll be focusing most on Larry Fitzgerald, one of the greatest players of the modern era to never win a Super Bowl. I know he wants it. For himself, for his teammates, and for Cardinals fans. I can't wait to see if Larry has another legendary performance in reserve for Sunday that will elevate his team, and advance the Cardinals to the ultimate game. We want it for the Cardinals. And for Larry.

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