GLENDALE, Ariz. -- How to stop Larry Fitzgerald in two easy steps:
1. Rush the passer.
2. Stick Sean Smith on him, with help over the top.
Smith, the fourth-year cornerback, had a career day against perhaps the league’s premier receiver, picking off two Kevin Kolb passes, including a critical interception in the end zone.
Last Monday, Smith asked his coaches for the chance to match up against Fitzgerald, and they granted him the wish.
“I feel like at this point in my career, it’s time to take the next step toward the next level. To be the best, you’ve got to play the best,” Smithsaid.
The Cardinals were up a point, inside the 5 and looking to put the game away when Smith made a tip-toeing pick on the sidelines. On the next play, Brian Hartline caught a 80-yard bomb to give Miami the lead. The Dolphins ultimately lost 24-21 in overtime.
Fitzgerald finished with eight catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, the 121st consecutive game he caught a pass, tying a franchise record ( Mel Gray).
Smith matched up against Fitzgerald for the most part, and won his fair share of battles. Namely, he picked off Kolb late in the first half, which set up a field goal. The interception was the fourth of Smith’s career.
The Dolphins had their entire starting secondary available Sunday, which was no sure thing after Richard Marshall missed practice Thursday with a back injury.
Jimmy Wilson was the nickel cornerback, a switch after playing mostly at safety this year.
Bush fares well
Reggie Bush not only played with a banged up knee, but did so relatively well. Bush, a question mark all week, got the start and rushed for 67 yards on 17 carries.
Before the game, Bush went through a series of tests, overseen by coach Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and general manager Jeff Ireland. While Bush was cleared to play, the Dolphins appeared to have him on a pitch count, spreading out the carries with Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller.
The Dolphins’ run game struggled overall. Miami gained 86 yards on 29 carries — a 3.0 average.
When the Dolphins needed a tough yard, they went to Jorvorskie Lane — and not Daniel Thomas.
And poor execution by Ryan Tannehill on a pitch play all but wrecked a drive early in the fourth quarter. Tannehill missed Bush on the toss, resulting in a loss of 9 yards.
Dan Carpenter still isn’t right from long range. A week after missing two field goals — including a potential game-winner in overtime — Carpenter connected on two short ones, but pushed a 51-yarder wide right.
The kick would have stretched the Dolphins’ lead to 16 points early in the second half but instead gave the Cardinals a short field. Eight plays later, the Cardinals were in the end zone.
“My miss earlier hurt us. It sucks. I can’t keep doing this,” he said.
This and that
Dolphins inactives: QB Pat Devlin, WRs Marlon Moore and Rishard Matthews, LB Austin Spitler, OL Will Yeatman, DT Tony McDaniel and TE Michael Egnew.
Moore, Spitler and McDaniel were injury scratches.
• Wilson, Richie Incognito and Karlos Dansby were the captains. Dansby, who played six years in Arizona, had a sack in the fourth quarter in his homecoming.
• Before the coin toss, referee Scott Green said over the microphone, “It’s great to be back,” to a rousing ovation.
That good-will was short-lived, however. The home crowd booed the officiating twice in the first quarter.
• Rob Housler, a tight end out of Florida Atlantic, caught two passes for 48 yards.