Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald lays out but can't come up with a diving touchdown catch during Sunday's 17-13 win in St. Louis. Fitzgerald had three receptions in the game.
Derek Anderson was blunt, and given the question, the answer was obvious.
How much better connected will Anderson and Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald be when Fitzgerald fully recovers from his preseason knee injury?
"Oh, we'll be good," Anderson said.
If one of the big-picture themes of the Cardinals' season-opening 17-13 win in St. Louis was Anderson's far-flung day throwing the ball, a direct subplot was his inability to hook up with Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald did have the game-winning touchdown reception among his three catches (for 43 yards) but Anderson threw it to him 15 times in the game, and many of the 12 incompletions didn't have much of a chance of working.
Fitzgerald is still feeling the effects of his injury, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said as the game went on Sunday, Fitzgerald's knee worsened playing on the turf. Add in the lack of Fitzgerald practice time in the preseason because of that injury and the normal bugs every team must clean up after the first regular-season game, and Whisenhunt feels he has an understanding of why Anderson-to-Fitzgerald didn't click right away.
"Some of it is just getting a feel for each other," Whisenhunt said. "Some of those plays, had Larry been at full capacity, he would have made, especially that one down in the end zone.
"We understand there's going to be, I don't want to say timing issues, but some growing pains."
The end zone pass was one Fitzgerald dove for but could reach. Anderson also overshot a wide-open Fitzgerald down the seam at one point when Fitzgerald was behind the defense at one point, a pass Anderson specifically lamented after the game.
Whisenhunt, though, reiterated a few times about "first-game stuff," noting that the passing game – and an inability for Kurt Warner to hook up with Fitzgerald – was a dominant story line after the first regular-season game last year as well.
"I think we've been spoiled the last two-and-a-half years because Kurt and Larry had gotten I don't know how many reps together," Whisenhunt said. "That will come. I know if I was a quarterback and I was throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, I would certainly have a lot of confidence."
Fitzgerald acknowledged there was a "ways to go" for he and Anderson to be on the same page.
"I've got to get my body together first," Fitzgerald said. "That's what is really important. Missing so much time … I think it's hurt us a little bit. We're not going to make excuses. This is the NFL and we've got to get right quickly."
Whisenhunt believes Fitzgerald will heal even as he plays, barring an unforeseen setback (Fitzgerald, actually nearly was rolled from behind Sunday blocking on one LaRod Stephens-Howling run). Fitzgerald told the TV crew broadcasting the game he was about 75 percent of health. Anderson said the fact Fitzgerald played showed toughness, because with past experience with a knee injury, "I know it's tough to trust it."
"I know (Larry) is willing to work at it and get to where we need to be," Anderson said.
There is no lack of belief otherwise from Whisenhunt, at least none he is showing. Instead he repeatedly talked about his confidence in Anderson as his quarterback, saying that while Anderson missed some throws "he also made some unbelievable throws." As for the notion Anderson simply may just be what he has always been – inconsistent with his accuracy – Whisenhunt shook his head.
"I don't buy into that," the coach insisted. "It's his job and our job to get those (misses) cleaned up."
"Listen, the guy hung in there and made a big throw at the end of the game to win it," Whisenhunt added. "That to me means there is a lot to work with."
That big throw? It went to Fitzgerald. The two just have to find a way to do it more often.
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