A play later, he took a shovel pass from quarterback Carson Palmer and sent the Cardinals to the NFC championship game Jan. 24.
After regulation ended with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing a 41-yard Hail Mary to tie the game at 20, Palmer found Fitzgerald wide open on the first play of overtime in the middle of a broken play.
Fitzgerald did the rest, nearly scoring after showing, at age 32, he's still got the speed to run his way to a potential game-winning touchdown. He helped give the Cardinals a 26-20 win at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"We are a resilient team," Fitzgerald said after the game. "We believe, we believe ... you just have to keep fighting."
Even when Fitzgerald didn’t touch the ball in Saturday night's win, he still found a way to help the Cardinals advance.
On first-and-goal from the 9-yard-line, with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in what was an underwhelming performance by Palmer, the quarterback went to old reliable yet again. Before the Cardinals’ biggest touchdown of the season, Fitzgerald had 90 yards in the second half (prior to overtime). Of course he was going to be Palmer’s target when it mattered.
Palmer tried to zip a pass into Fitzgerald, but Packers rookie Damarious Randall -- a rookie out of Arizona State -- got his left arm in between Fitzgerald and Palmer's pass. The ball hit his forearm and bounced in the air. Had this been any other throw in any other quarter Saturday night, it would’ve likely ended up in the Packers' hands. The ricochet bounced too high and too deep for any Green Bay defensive back to come down with it, and the touchdown landed in Michael Floyd’s hands.
When nothing else worked for Palmer -- on a night that was supposed to be a coronation for the 36-year-old quarterback who had yet to win a playoff game -- his oldest receiver came through time and time again.
Fitzgerald entered the second half with just six yards, all on one play on the Cardinals’ only touchdown drive of the first half. That was his final target of the first half.
Then the Cardinals went back to what’s worked throughout the years.
On the first play of the third quarter, Palmer hit Fitzgerald for 4. On the second play, he hit him for 32. Later in the drive, he hit him for 19.
Fitzgerald helped Palmer salvage what was an ugly, inconsistent game for him. The quarterback was sacked three times, hit twice more, and was overthrowing or underthrowing receivers on touchdown passes.
His first career playoff win came in large part because of Fitzgerald.
Game ball: Fitzgerald did his part to help carry the Cardinals back from a deficit with 170 second-half yards and 176 total yards for the game.
Game-changing decision: With the help of hindsight, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians' decision to throw on second-and-8 from the 22 with 2:34 left in the game changed the outcome of regulation. Rodgers threw a 41-yard Hail Mary with 5 seconds left to tie the game at 20. If the Cardinals had run the ball on that down, instead of throwing it, it's likely the Packers wouldn't have had time to throw that final pass.
What were they thinking? Palmer had been making good decisions in the red zone all season. Until Saturday. He tried to throw a fade to wide receiver John Brown from the 10-yard line, but it was underthrown and intercepted by Randall. The pick ended a promising drive for the Cardinals. It was Palmer’s first red-zone interception since Week 10 against Seattle.
Fantasy watch: Rookie running back David Johnson was held under 100 yards Saturday, finishing with 35 rushing and 43 receiving yards.
Ouch: The Cardinals got out the game relatively injury-free.