Not like this.
"It hurts to lose like this, in this fashion," he said, fighting back tears. "I love my teammates. They fought all year, through a lot of adversity, ups and downs. I'm really proud to be here, but obviously didn't want it to end this way."
The biggest hurt for the 12-year pro came in how the loss unfolded. The Cards turned the ball over seven times, including six from Carson Palmer. Fitzgerald dropped two passes Sunday after missing one on 268 targets over the past two seasons.
"I think just the performance," he said of why it hurt. "If we'd have lost in a shootout, it was a close game, came down to the wire, they beat us on some play, it would hurt, but ... we just didn't have it today. And that really stings."
The last time the Cardinals went this deep in the playoffs, Fitzgerald saw Santonio Holmes make a high-wire catch to beat them in the Super Bowl. After seeing his team pummeled from the jump on Sunday, perhaps this gut punch is just as bad.
After a spectacular season, the Cards biggest stars failed to show up in the biggest moment. That's the biggest stinger of them all.