At the beginning of the fourth quarter the Cincinnati Bengals held the lead at 23-0. The Arizona Cardinals had been unable to do anything in the passing game, except turn the ball over to the Bengals. The Cardinals running game was non-existent with Beanie Wells showing power but lacking speed due to his injured knee, and OC Miller's use of LaRad Stephens-Howling and Chester Taylor on third downs turned into check downs that were always two or three yards shy of the first and lead the team to punt six of their nine possessions. The other three possessions ended with John Skelton throwing interceptions. All signs were pointing to a blow out loss, in addition to the end of any playoff ambitions in 2011. The announcers continued to hold onto hope that John Skelton would turn on his fourth quarter magic and somehow lead the team back from a miserable afternoon which included Bengal's WR Jerome Simpson making a leap over Cardinals LB Daryl Washington that continues to air on ESPN and NFL network and will probably be used well into next year. At 14:17 left in the 4th Quarter the Arizona Cardinals received the ball and lead to the beginning of the comeback...
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As if a switch were turned the Cardinals Offense sprung into life; completing passes, converting a run on fourth down, making blocks, and creating a pocket for the passer which allowed the team to come back from the depths of the blow out. The drive had a new look to it, and it was due not only to Skelton turning on his fourth quarter game, but due to Larry Fitzgerald suddenly taking over the Cardinals offense. Fitz suddenly became the field general working out plays with Mike Miller, hyping up the offense, making catches, and scoring a 30 yard catch and run touchdown to put life in the Cardinals and get them on the board 23-7. Larry's spark was contagious, the team stopped wallowing in pity and believed they still had a chance, especially when the clock showed 11:25 left to play. To everyone's stunned belief there was a chance the Cardinals could come back.
Larry's touchdown catch was the play of the game for ending the blow out, lighting the fire, and leading the charge on the fourth quarter rally. He was everywhere and showed his leadership through example when the game seemed completely lost.
A shot of the sidelines showed Larry Fitzgerald talking to the Defense getting them fired up, and speaking with Whisenhunt and Mike Miller, coordinating the next drive and discussing what worked with his scoring drive. It was only two Bengals plays later when Bengals QB Andy Dalton was sacked by Sam Acho for a seven yard loss, and on the next play the defense stripped Bengals RB Cedric Benson and recovered the ball on the Cincinnati 39.
Was it all due to Larry Fitzgerald? I can't say that, it's a team sport. But I can say that rewatching that quarter of the game you see how much he cared when others were down and you can count how many eyes were looking to him in the fourth and seeing that he was going to give it his all to end the blow out and keep the playoff hopes alive. When he scored, everything changed, as proven by the tape. The Cardinals ended up losing the game, and were automatically out of playoff contention. They were one catch away from proving how infectious Fitzgerald's fire was, and how effective a good leader can be when the chips are down.
What was your play of the game?