(chiming in at halftime of the Cardinals-Panthers game).
Larry Fitzgerald becomes legendIt's fun watching a wide receiver take over a playoff game. It is domination in the playoffs that elevates Jerry Rice from all-time great wide receiver to one of the greatest football players and dominant athletes ever--in 28 playoff games, he has 151 catches, 2,245 yards, and 22 TDs (and conversely, it is weak performance in the playoffs that make Marvin Harrison merely a Hall of Fame wide receiver).
In the Cardinals-Panthers game, the Panthers are unable to stop Larry Fitzgerald. He's getting wide open on all sorts of routes, and he jumping up in the air making amazing plays. He's got six catches, 151 yards, and a touchdown. This is already an all-time memorable performance, as Fitzgerald is crushing the Panthers (the only person crushing them worse is Jake Delhomme).
His domination of the reminds me of the 2005 season, when Steve Smith took over a playoff game against the Bears. A very good Bear defense had no answer for Smith, who had 12 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed three times for 26 yards. It was an amazing individual performance.
Fitzgerald dominating a road playoff game against a seemingly superior team also calls to mind Anthony Carter's 1987 season playoff game against the 49ers: 10 catches for 227 yards and one rush for 30 yards in an upset win.
Larry Fitzgerald seems to me an unholy combination of Cris Carter and Randy Moss: a crisp route runner and physical possession receiver that is also an amazing athlete that can burn people deep and leaps into the air to make acrobatic difficult catches.
Chiming in with scattered thoughts after the third quarter
My formative football-fan years were the early '90s when these NFC Divisional Round playoff games lacked any drama: Dallas and San Francisco generally just crushed whatever inferior opponent came out of the Wild Card round. In recent years, however, the playoffs have not been a time for an elite team to crush inferior competition, but a time for a team on a hot streak to make a bursting run. The last three Super Bowl champs (Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New York) had to win three straight games to get to the Super Bowl, and scored a major upset in the Divisional round. In today's NFL, a team can get hot at the right time and go on a championship run.
Going into tonight, Kurt Warner has started eight playoff games and won six of them. The two losses were memorable: in the 2000 playoffs, the Rams lost a 31-28 shootout, coming back from 31-7 but losing when the Ram kick returner fumbled away the Rams' last chance to score (and that offense was so hot they probably would have). And of course in the 2001 season Super Bowl, Warner led two late touchdown drives to tie the game before the Patriots ignored John Madden's advice to run out the clock. Warner is a quarterback who has been in a lot of big playoff games, and usually come through.
At this point, Larry Fitzgerald has eight catches for 166 yards and Jake Delhomme has five turnovers. If the score were reversed, I'd have long stopped watching, but when an underdog is blowing a favorite out, there's always a tension that keeps me watching. Um, until now, I guess. Time to move on with the evening.
Don't torment yourself. Sure, the Vikings could have been playing against this Carolina team that is totally sucking right now. Sure, the Vikings blew out the Cardinals who are now crushing the Panthers. Sure, the Vikings defensively dominated the Panthers in week three. But...oh. OK, torment yourself.
Chiming in after the game
Playoff football is about timing. In the regular season the Cardinals were 3-7 outside their division and only in the playoffs because of the terrible NFC West, and the NFC South was a tough division, deep and good. And yet the Cardinals are using the playoffs as an opportunity to mow through the NFC South's 11-5 and 12-4 teams.