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Cardinals Wins Impacted by Fitzgerald Production

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has the least receiving yards over a two-game stretch in his career, both losses.

After a Week 3 performance that saw Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald haul in one reception for zero yards, head coach Kliff Kingsbury vowed to try and get his veteran leader and team captain more touches.

"That's on me," Kingsbury said following the Cardinals 26-23 loss in Week 3. "I should have done a better job of finding ways to get him the football. He's the heart and soul of this team and when he's getting the football, good things happen. It's completely on me and I got to find a way to get him more incorporated in the offense moving forward."

Yet, when the Cardinals hit the road to Carolina to face the Panthers in Week 4, Fitzgerald's production was limited again. On three targets, the 17-year wideout had two catches for four yards. That total, combined with the zero from last week, represent the least amount of yardage Fitzgerald has accumulated in a two-game stretch in his entire career.

Still, if last week was any indication, Fitzgerald does not mind. At least, when Arizona is winning.

"I'm not concerned about my production at all," Fitzgerald said Thursday. "Honestly, it's not something that I concern myself with ... Wherever the ball goes, it goes and my only objective is to win and do what's required to win. And that's the only thing I'm upset about last week (against Detroit) is that we didn't come out of that game with win."

Fitzgerald is likely experiencing similar feelings Sunday after the Cardinals fell 31-21 to the Panthers, extending their current season losing streak to two games and regular-season road-game woes against Carolina to six — they have not won a non-playoff game in Bank of America Stadium since Oct. 6, 2002.

While Fitzgerald said last week he appreciated the sentiments from his head coach, his sole objective is to be an asset on a winning team, even if that means taking on different roles than he has been accustomed to throughout his career.

With an offense that has several weapons, none more potent that offseason addition receiver DeAndre Hopkins, quarterback Kyler Murray has a plethora of talent to throw to. Sunday, Hopkins led the team with 41 yards on seven catches, while the next two highest receiving yard totals were hauled in by non-wide receivers: tight end Dan Arnold (four catches, 39 yards) and running back Chase Edmonds (five catches, 24 yards). 

"I do want to thank Coach Kliff," Fitzgerald said. "I've never had a head coach actually say that before. I've never been one to politic or ask or request plays or passes. I don't really operate like that. I've operated the same way for the many years I've played football since I was 6-years-old. I don't ever intend to change, but as a player I do appreciate him saying that.

"But I don't want my head coach answering questions about any one individual being not targeted or production. This is a team game, this is a great offense, we have many playmakers who deserve the opportunity to be showcased in this system, have worked tirelessly to put themselves in position to be successful."

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While the offense might be impressive on paper, it has not translated successfully in the team's last two losses en route to a 2-2 record. Despite putting up 20-plus points in both outings, Kingsbury's play-calling has been conservative and it has not led to a sustained ability to move the chains. Case in point: Murray completed 24 of 31 passes Sunday with three touchdowns, but only totaled 133 yards in the process.

Murray was admittedly not encouraged by the offensive performance following the loss to Carolina, but said he is trying to move on and strive to improve.

"Just look to the next play," Murray said. "You've got to play the next play. Everything that's happened, happened."

Playing in his 20th career game, Murray said that the offense seemed off from the very first drive. In that series, Murray skied his first target to Fitzgerald and it fell incomplete. It was a sign of the offensive ineptitude and inability to make explosive plays that was to come.

"Honestly, I think today we were just a little off," Murray said. "I missed a throw to Larry on the first drive. Second drive, me and (wide receiver) Andy (Isabella) didn't connect, which that's a big play right there. If we connect on that, had a chance to score ... it's tough. I can't get the ball to Larry back. I wish me and Andy could have connected, but we can't get it back. We can't go backwards, so you've just got to play the next play, be better the next play."

In the team's first two games of the season, wins against the San Francisco 49ers on the road and a home victory over the Washington Football Team, Fitzgerald accumulated 11 catches on 12 targets for 84 yards. The losses have come in games where Fitzgerald has three catches on six targets and four yards. 

Still, he extended his active NFL-leading streak of consecutive games with a reception to 247 Sunday. It simultaneously represents the longest such streak of any player with a single team and the second-longest overall in NFL history behind former wide receiver Jerry Rice's 274. 

There seems to be a positive correlation there between wins and Fitzgerald's involvement. Kingsbury already vowed to scheme accordingly. It was not the case Sunday and if the Cardinals want to get back to winning, Fitzgerald will likely need a larger role.

For now, Fitzgerald will seemingly continue his approach with a goal of continuing to improve.

"First, I'll watch [film] from an individual standpoint, things that I can do to improve on," Fitzgerald said. "Splits and depths and all of those things. Every single play is designed to go certain places and you're asked to do a certain assignment on each individual play. And I pretty much watch to make sure that I'm doing my job no matter what that job is to the highest level. 

"Sometimes that play is designed for you to get open and catch a pass, sometimes it's to be able to block, sometimes it's to be able to get out on a bubble screen and be able to get to the outside shoulder of somebody. Every single play has its purpose in terms of each individual player. And that's how I watch it and that's how I grade myself on productivity."