The brilliance of Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald ensured people will talk about Saturdays showdown between Green Bay and Arizona for years to come
What is it that constructs the biggest players shine in the most important moments?
How is it that Aaron Rodgers can scramble with the season about to end, turn to the most awkward throwing stance he could and heave a touchdown pass half the length of a football field? What lets Larry Fitzgerald catch a pass in overtime then run through what seems like the entire Packers defense to set up a winning score?
The best thing about playoff football in the modern era is the greatness that comes from desperation. By now we know what Rodgers can do with a football as hour is running out. His game-winning heave in Detroit a few weeks ago already stood as perhaps his finest play. But Saturday, with the season dying and the clock running out, he was even better. After video games he spoke about the finality that comes with the end of a season, the reality of sitting the working day with cherished team-mates on a road trip and then suddenly going home forever. The move to keep the team together a few days more was intense. He had to find a way to get the game to overtime.
Fitzgerald knows he is the energy that drives the Cardinal. He talked about it late Saturday after his touchdown on a shovel pass in overtime gave Arizona a 26 -2 0 victory over Green Bay in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Somehow, after Rodgers had just tied video games on the Hail mary, he had to get the ball, he had to do something.
What is it about the biggest moments that brings out the biggest plays? Fitzgerald could sense his quarterback Carson Palmer was in trouble on that first possession of overtime. He did the only thing he knew: twisting, contorting himself, trying to get open. Then when Palmer threw his style he got the ball and began to run. As he sprinted, trying to avoid lunging Packers defenders, he couldnt have imagined how magnificent this must have looked on television the darting and dodging all he could think of was the end zone. How promptly could he objective video games?
Then, with the Cardinals simply short of the goal line, they called for the shovel pass, the quick toss to Fitzgerald who was to run through the middle of the Packers defense and into the end zone.
When you get your number called, the shovel, my eyes illuminate up in the huddle, he afterwards said.
What is it that brings these biggest plays in the most dire of moments? Fitzgerald contemplated everything that had happened before overtime, the way Rodgers had snatched away the Cardinal victory with one last enormous heave to the end zone and shake his head.
Hes the reigning MVP of the league for a reason, Fitzgerald said. The guy can flat out play his butt off.
A moment afterward Fitzgerald added: We just wanted to respond.
Years from now, when people talk about the greatest playoff games, they will recollect the Saturday night in the far west suburbiums of Phoenix when two of the best players of their time induced the biggest plays at the most desperate moments. They will recollect Rodgers scramble from his own end zone and the pass that set up the Hail Mary and then, of course, the final heave itself that seemed practised so perfectly the style the ball flew and Jeff Janis was in perfect position to grab it. And they will recollect, too, Fitzgeralds catch and mad race to the goal line the one that set up the last shovel pass.
After the game, Rodgers said he didnt really know exactly who was in the end zone or where the ball would land where reference is threw it. This is probably an exaggeration. Even as he was lunging to his left, stumbling toward the ground he seemed to have a sense of exactly how much pressure to put on the pass and where Janis was likely to be. The fling was too precise; Janis was in too ideal a place.
Sure they have worked on this. Anyone who has been to an NFL practice has watched the last moments after the workout when the quarterbacks hurl precisely these pass to their receivers. But the beauty of the Rodgers throw was the pacify with which he made it. The Cardinals were blitzing, many quarterbacks would have panicked. He constructed it look like he and Janis were playing catch in the yard.
Fitzgerald seemed just as at ease where reference is caught the ball from Carson Palmer in overtime and then took off. It was almost as if he was faster in overtime than he had been for the entire 60 minutes before. Desperation does this. It attains the blur of rushing bodies look clearer. The best players always talk about attaining the game slow down.
As everything turned into a jumble on Saturday, Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald built video games slow down. And for several minutes, two of the best players in the game constructed the biggest plays no one will ever forget.