Fitz, ‘D’ star in Cardinals’ big home finale win

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The chants are so familiar at University of Phoenix Stadium now.


Larry Fitzgerald had another big day for Arizona in the Cardinals’ 23-0 win over the New York Giants on Sunday. The biggest question was whether his remarkable run would continue into another season or would this be his last home game?

He said the thought never crossed his mind. He said earlier in the week he would take some time to figure out whether he will come back for a 15th NFL season.

But he certainly has the skills to keep going.

Catch No. 100 on the season for @LarryFitzgerald is a TD…because of course it is.

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 24, 2017

Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He even got his first career completed throw, a 21-yarder to Jaron Brown.

The performance made him, at age 34, the oldest player to top 100 catches and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

“It’s remarkable,” Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton said. “I think it shows how hard he works and the effort he puts in during the offseason. He shows up Day 1 of training camp and he’s ready to roll.”

Stanton, replacing Blaine Gabbert, who had started the previous five games, threw for two touchdowns but had two intercepted.

He and the rest of the Arizona offense benefited from a defense that shut down the Giants a week after they had used an up-tempo attack to stay close to favored Philadelphia.

WR @LarryFitzgerald even pays attention to his teammates' incentives. ?

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 25, 2017

The Cardinals (7-8) can avoid a second straight losing season by beating the Seahawks in Seattle in their season finale next season, something Arizona has done each of the past two years. That also would keep the Seahawks out of the playoffs.

If uncertainty about the future of Fitzgerald or injured Carson Palmer or even coach Bruce Arians clouds the Arizona figure, it’s a lot murkier in East Rutherford, where the Giants are 2-13 with a home game against Washington remaining. It’s not at all the season Giants fans were anticipating. .

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard said if someone would have told him when the season started that the Giants would go 2-13, “I would’ve looked at them like they were crazy.”

“Going into the season, I thought we had the perfect squad to make a run in this thing,” Shepard said. “It’s just frustrating.”

"Obviously a very good team win."

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 25, 2017

Here are some things to consider from the Cardinals’ shutout of the Giants:

ROBERT’S BIG PLAY: It’s taken almost two seasons, but Arizona finally has one of those big plays it was expecting when it drafted defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche two years ago.

Nkemdiche has had trouble with injuries and adjusting to the discipline necessary to play the game at the NFL level. But coaches have said he’s improved.

And then on Sunday, when Deone Bucannon knocked the ball loose from Eli Manning. Nkemdiche was there to scoop it up and ramble 21 yards for what amounted to the clinching touchdown.

Nkemdiche for the TD.

That rhymes…kinda.

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 24, 2017

“It’s only the beginning,” Nkemdiche said. “I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I know I can be and what everyone else can be. I’m just going to keep feeding off this.”

RARE SHUTOUT: The Cardinals hadn’t shut out an opponent since beating the Giants 17-0 on Dec. 12, 1992.

“It has been a long time since we have had one here, so to be a part of it is pretty special,” said Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher. “Our guys were just relentless today.”

The last time we pitched a shutout was 1992, which is the same year @deonebucannon20 was born.

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 25, 2017

NO OFFENSE: Eli Manning wasn’t the only problem with the New York offense. Sure, he threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away for a touchdown. But there wasn’t much to the running attack, either.

New York rushed for 43 yards in 20 attempts, an average of 2.2 yards per carry.

FITZ BACKERS: Count cornerback Patrick Peterson among those convinced that Fitzgerald will be back for another season.

“Yeah, he’ll be back,” Peterson said. “It’s tough for him to call it quits because he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. He’s still moving in the right direction. The oldest receiver to have 100 and 1,000 yards in a season. I mean, the guy’s’ remarkable.”

Count Manning, who shared the NFL Man of the Year award with Fitzgerald last year, as another big supporter.

WR @LarryFitzgerald is on the other end of a completion for the first time in his career.

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 24, 2017

“I’ve known him since college and he was doing it all today,” Manning said, “catching, throwing and scoring touchdowns. A tremendous player and tremendous person.”

HURT: The Giants lost three significant players due to injury.

In the first quarter, tight end Evan Engram — the team’s leading receiver on the season — was knocked out of the contest with a rib injury. In the second half, safety Landon Collins broke a forearm. Shepard left with a neck injury.

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