- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

GLENDALE, Ariz. | Whatever happens for the Arizona Cardinals and receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the Super Bowl, a play called “Philly Special” belongs in the team’s history book.

Before Philadelphia mounted a second-half rally and before the Cardinals scored the winning touchdown late in their 32-25 NFC championship game victory Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, Fitzgerald dominated the first half in record fashion.

He caught nine passes for 152 yards and an NFC title game record-tying three touchdowns. His 419 receiving yards this postseason are already a playoff record.

All three touchdowns came in the first half, when Arizona sprinted to a 24-6 lead. He started with a 9-yard catch on the opening drive and finished with a 1-yard score with 3:06 left in the half. The second score came on a trick play from Arizona’s 38-yard line early in the second quarter.

“It’s a play I’ve been running a long time,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “Sean Payton brought it to Dallas, so we ran it a couple times there, and I brought it out here.”

On Saturday, Haley instructed third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre to do one job: find the perfect situation to call “Philly Special.”

“There were a lot of variables - we couldn’t do it against a blitz,” Haley said. “I put it on him to see when it would be the right time to call. It’s a scary call to make.”

The play: Warner pitched left to running back J.J. Arrington, who threw a lateral back to Warner. Matched in man coverage with Eagles safety Quintin Demps, Fitzgerald sprinted down the middle of the field. Warner threw the ball up, and Fitzgerald collected it at the 13, shed Demps’ tackle and scored a 62-yard touchdown.

It was the kind of catch that’s rare for most teams. Not Arizona.

“I see it every day,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “The biggest step we’ve made is that our quarterbacks trust Larry, and in some situations, what we have to do is throw the ball up to him because he’s pretty darn consistent making those plays. He’s made I don’t know how many huge plays in the playoffs, and his confidence has grown. But Larry doesn’t have too big an ego that he doesn’t want to work on things - and that’s really made him a dangerous, dangerous receiver.”

With outputs of 101, 166 and 152 yards, Fitzgerald tied the NFL record for consecutive 100-yard playoff games.

“I’ve been around great players my whole career, and they all make me better,” Warner said. “That continues to be the case here. Larry continues to play phenomenal football for us.”

Fitzgerald was held in check for much of the second half. The Cardinals’ first three drives ended in punts, allowing Philadelphia to score 19 consecutive points and lead 25-24. Fitzgerald had no catches during those possessions.

On the winning drive, he posted receptions of 15, 18 and 6 yards to set up Tim Hightower’s 8-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

“The guys were focused and ready to go,” Fitzgerald said. “You could see the look in guys’ eyes. Nobody wanted to be the guy who let this team down.”

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