RENTON — A strange thing happened when Seattle played Arizona last month, and it wasn’t just that the Seahawks beat the Cardinals for the first time since 2007.
As unusual as it had been for the Seahawks to beat the Cardinals in recent years, perhaps even more surprising was the lack of production from Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Widely considered one of the game’s top receivers, Fitzgerald was held to three catches for 30 yards his team’s 22-10 loss at Qwest Field. And that was with rookie cornerback Walter Thurmond making his first career start in place of the injured Kelly Jennings. In his four previous games against the Seahawks, Fitzgerald had averaged 8.75 receptions and 113.5 yards per game.
Of course, anyone who has watched the Cardinals this season knows the drop off in production isn’t the fault of Fitzgerald. After five seasons of catching passes from Pro Bowler and potential Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald and the rest of his teammates are having to adjust to Life After Kurt. And so far this season, that hasn’t been an easy adjustment.
The Cardinals, who made it to the Super Bowl two seasons ago largely on the strength of their offense, have the league’s 31st ranked offense this season, and are also 31st in passing offense. With undrafted rookie Max Hall and Derek Anderson going back and forth as the starting quarterback, the offense, Fitzgerald included, is struggling.
“He’s had opportunities where he’s open and we haven’t gotten him the ball and at times that can be frustrating, but Larry’s such a professional that he works through it,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhut said. “I think that we’ve talked about it, knowing that whenever you make a change from a guy like Kurt that there’s always going to be a little bit of drop off, because Kurt and Larry had operated together for so many years. But it hasn’t affected the way he’s prepared.”
Fitzgerald is still putting up solid numbers, having caught 42 balls for 510 yards and four touchdowns in the first half of this season, but catching passes from Warner for five seasons, Fitzgerald eclipsed 1,400 yards three times and had double-digit touchdowns four times.
But even if Max Hall and Derek Anderson are making life more difficult, Fitzgerald, one of the true good guys in the NFL, isn’t about to complain about it.
“It’s an adjustment, not only for me but for everybody,” he said. “I mean, when a Hall of Famer walks away from the game, it’s a lot more difficult to replace those players. We’re not going to harp on that but we’ve got to find a way to make this thing go, regardless of who’s back there.”
And just because they held him to three catches last month, the Seahawks aren’t about to take Fitzgerald lightly on Sunday. For starters, Anderson has solidified himself as the starter and seems to be getting the passing game going a bit—when he came in for Max Hall against the Seahawks, he quickly led the Cardinals to their only touchdown.
“He’s got a huge arm, the whole field is available to him, and I have a lot of respect for him,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who coached against Anderson when the quarterback was at Oregon State. “I’ve seen him throw for a lot of yards against my boys over the years. So I think that makes them a little different than going with a first-year quarterback.”
The change to Anderson seems to be helping Fitzgerald get back on track. A week after his rough day in Seattle, Fitzgerald had 72 yards and two touchdowns in a game started by Hall, but finished by Anderson. Last week in Minnesota, Fitzgerald had his best game of the season with seven catches for 107 yards.
“It was nice to see us get a few more balls to him the last couple of weeks, especially for him to get over 100 yards against Minnesota,” Whisenhunt said. “I think that hopefully we’re starting to get a little bit of a rhythm with Larry and our quarterback and that’ll certainly help us if we can do that.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog