PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Playing the Philadelphia Eagles brings out the best in Larry Fitzgerald.
The seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver has plenty of excellent performances throughout his 10-year career with the Arizona Cardinals. Some of his finest efforts have come against the Eagles. Fitzgerald won the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week award after his last two games vs. Philadelphia.
So when the Cardinals (7-4) visit the Eagles (6-5) on Sunday in a matchup with important playoff implications, Philadelphia’s secondary will be focused on No. 11.
“Larry is a great player and he’s proven that over the years,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “He’s going to make some catches and I feel I’m going to make some plays as well. I’m not backing down from the guy.”
Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis is quite familiar with Fitzgerald. He spent four years on Arizona’s defensive staff from 2007-10.
“He’s probably the best receiver in the league,” Davis said. “I’ve got nothing but respect for him. He does a great job at the ball. He’s one of the strongest reach-out-and-snatch-the-ball guys that are out there. And he’s got such a drive to succeed and catch the football every time.”
Fitzgerald has more touchdown catches (9) against the Eagles than any other team outside the NFC West. He’s caught 35 passes for 570 yards in five games.
Fitzgerald had nine catches for 114 yards and one TD in a 27-6 win Sept. 23, 2012. He had seven catches for 146 yards and two TDs in a 21-17 victory Nov. 13, 2011. His best game against the Eagles came in the NFC championship game when he had nine catches for 152 yards and three TDs in a 32-25 win Jan. 18, 2009.
“It’s just another game to me against a well-coached football team, a team right in the thick of the NFC East race,” Fitzgerald said, downplaying his career success against Philadelphia.
The emergence of wideout Michael Floyd, a 2012 first-round pick, has helped take some pressure of Fitzgerald and makes it difficult for defenses to double-team him. Floyd is coming off consecutive 100-yard games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis. He’s combined for 13 catches for 297 yards and one TD in the two victories.
“When they didn’t have a guy like Floyd, teams were able to roll safeties over, roll more coverage to Fitzgerald’s side,” cornerback Bradley Fletcher said. “But now that you have Floyd on the other side, the defense gets spread out.”
As for covering Fitzgerald, Fletcher said: “You have to play the ball. You can’t wait for him to make plays. When the ball is in the air, you have to be aggressive.”
The Cardinals took a while to get their offense on track this season with a new quarterback and a new coach. Bruce Arians came over from Indianapolis and acquired Carson Palmer from Oakland to run his offense.
Arizona averaged 19 points over the first seven games and was 3-4. The Cardinals have scored 30.3 points per game in four straight wins to get right in the mix for a playoff berth.
“Any offense takes some time for you to get adjusted and learn the nuances of it,” Fitzgerald said. “It took a little while but I think guys are really comfortable now and we have to do an especially good job this week to keep Philly’s offense off the field.”
Despite being slowed by a hamstring injury earlier in the season, Fitzgerald leads Arizona with 50 catches for 606 yards and eight touchdowns. Floyd has 49 receptions for a team-high 761 yards and three TDs.
“Their receivers are the strength of this offense. And Carson gets them the ball,” Davis said. “You have a healthy Larry Fitzgerald, which is always trouble.”
NOTES: Coach Chip Kelly said Thursday that he expects everyone to play Sunday except S Earl Wolff (knee). LB Mychal Kendricks and CB Bradley Fletcher missed the previous game because of injuries. Michael Vick likely will be ready to return from a hamstring injury to be the backup QB behind Nick Foles.