Fitzgerald Shows Football IQ Again in Key First-Half Situation

Howard Balzer

Let’s set the scene.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray had just run for no gain on a first-down play from the 49ers 43-yard line with 13 seconds remaining in the first half while trailing 13-7. After using their final timeout, Murray connected with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on a short pass that gained five yards with the clock ticking.

49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jimmie Ward were working to keep Hopkins on the ground with the ball as the seconds ticked away. That’s when Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald came sprinting from near the sideline toward Hopkins, who quickly flipped him the ball. Fitzgerald then raced to the hashmark, handed the ball to center Mason Cole, who handed it to the official, who placed it down.

The offense was set and Murray was able to spike the ball with two seconds remaining. Kicker Zane Gonzalez then kicked a 56-yard field goal to make the score 13-10 at halftime.

Hopkins said after the game, “We all knew what was going to happen. Once we got down, we knew that they would try to come on top of whoever caught the ball. And that's his (Fitzgerald's) IQ being one of the smartest guys I've been around. He came over to help me out. Me being on the ground trying to get up, but the other team holding me down. That speaks a lot about his character and who he is and more so his football IQ.”

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury concurred, adding, “As a coach, it's incredible to watch that and he has one of the highest football IQ’s you'll ever be around. And we show situational football to our players here on a weekly basis. And some of the long-term clips that come from years back are of Fitz doing things like that, whether it's getting down when the clock’s running and you've got to kill it to kick a field goal, or he's catching an onside kick and running around for two seconds so the game's over.

"He is a heads-up player and to have him be on your team, you always feel very confident in those situations when he's in the game, but it just shows what he's about. He's about winning, first and foremost, and he'll do whatever it takes.”

One reporter mentioned he had talked to some high school football coaches Monday morning who said they would make sure to show the play to their players in team meetings.

In terms of what young athletes should learn from it, Kingsbury said, “I think, more than anything, selflessness and then just always be able to have your wits about you when you're on the field. He wasn't really part of the play; he stepped off the sideline and he knew to go grab the ball, take it to the official, get set and that allowed us to kill it and kick a field goal to eventually end up winning us the game. I think just being in the situation, having your mind right, is huge for those young players.”

It’s the seemingly little things that happen during a game that add up and help teams win. Especially when they have smart players doing those not-so-little things.

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