BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson are having so much fun playing for the Cardinals this season.
It’s not really difficult to see why they’re having such a good time, with this team’s ability to win in so many different ways; it just makes it exciting to play for Arizona each and every week.
“It really is a lot of fun to be so potent in every single phase of the game,” Fitzgerald said. “I really don’t feel like we have many deficiencies, if any at all. We’re playing at a good clip, (and) we’re a very, very tough team to play against, because there’s so many different components that can hurt you.”
As much as Arizona’s scored on offense, defense and special teams (57 touchdowns), it feels like all 53 men have gotten in on the scoring party, and they have, to an extent.
Here’s an astonishing stat to throw out: Arizona’s had a franchise record and NFL high 19 different players score at least one touchdown this season. It’s been eight years since one football team has had that much scoring variety in this league (New England Patriots, 2007, 21).
Peterson is having the season of a lifetime. Teams are scared to throw in his direction, and when they do, he’s shutting that down. Peterson’s ability to shut down an entire section of the field has allowed others on the defense to eat like a king because of the opposition’s mistakes, and to him, it’s “a pleasure” to be able to be that field blanket, because it’s making everyone else on the squad – not just on the defensive side – see the proper level of football to be at for 60 whole minutes.
“Now we are dangerous in all phases,” Peterson said. “You don’t know who’s going to be that player that emerge(s) for us on Sunday, because it’s a different guy each and every week, on special teams, on offense, and on defense as well. It’s definitely a pleasure, and a blessing to be on a team that’s so deep at every position, and also on a team that cares about each other as much as we do.”
“I’m having a ton of fun,” Peterson said. “That’s what it’s all about. When you go out there and play a kids game, you want to have fun. You don’t to be uptight (and) mad at the world; you want to go out there and just let it all hang loose, have fun, (and) talk with my teammates. I believe that’s what’s keeping me in the game, (and) keeping (me) entertained.”
“I’m in a very, very happy place right now,” Peterson said. “Having a kid, being elected Man of the Year, it’s just a lot of great things (that are) happening for me this year, and I just want to continue riding that wave.”
Over the course of the last 17 weeks, Arizona’s won and lost in a myriad of different ways. They’ve blown out a lot of teams, they’ve had a lot of close wins, and in their two losses to the Rams and Steelers, they came in pretty ugly fashion, considering they could’ve won those games too if it weren’t for untimely mistakes that led to those defeats.
It’s what comes with playing for four months straight. There’s going to be ups and downs, but through it all, Fitzgerald says the team’s gotten stronger because of their trials and tribulations.
“I think that’s really good,” Fitzgerald said. “It builds great confidence amongst your team, knowing that no matter if we’re down, we can fight our way back, but if we’re complacent we can lose these leads as well, so I think it shows us that we can’t go out there and be complacent against against anybody. We gotta play good for four quarters to win ball games.”
Fitzgerald feels there’s nothing wrong with knowing you’re a good team and declaring it, like offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said publicly on Thursday. If there’s anyone out there that has any doubts about the Cardinals at this juncture of the season, all they need to do is look to a few things that will change that thought process: Arizona’s record (13-2), they’re NFC West champs, their quarterback, Carson Palmer, is playing like the NFL MVP, they have seven Pro Bowl players (Fitzgerald and Peterson are among the seven), and they have a top five offense and defense.
That’ll change some minds.
“No, no, I think it’s okay to have confidence,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s anybody that’s talented in any business (has confidence). I watched the Golden State Warriors when they came in town a couple weeks ago (to play the Phoenix Suns); it wasn’t what they were saying, but you could just tell they were a confident group of guys that believed in each other. You watch (the) Carolina (Panthers) throughout the course of the year, (with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton) dancing in the end zone. They’re not saying it, but you know they’re confident in their ability. We have a confident group of guys; we know we have a good squad.”