It has been quite a while since the fans in Buffalo have had anything to be really excited about when it comes to their pro football team. The last time there was legitimate excitement for this franchise was likely when they went out and signed Terrell Owens last season. Fans had ideas of Trent Edwards blossoming and the offense being unstoppable with two top wideouts that defenses had to account for. All that enthusiasm was quickly tempered by a Leodis McKelvin fumble in last season’s opener against New England. Since then, the Bills have been pretty bad and boring to watch. However, though still in defeat, Bills’ fans are starting to wonder if Ryan Fitzpatrick is someone they can get excited about watching.
Though the Bills have been 0-4 in his starts, Fitzpatrick has lead the offense to heights they haven’t known in some time. The Bills have averaged 26 points per game, including 30 point outings against the Patriots and Ravens on the road. Fitzpatrick has thrown for 977 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He was the Bills first 300 yard passer since J.P. Losman in 2005, and has re-energized a dormant receiving corps.
While Bills’ fans definitely need to enjoy the suddenly entertaining football team they have while they can, I would suggest maintaining an even keel approach to Fitzpatrick fanaticism.
In Fitzpatrick’s first three starts, he really only played well in one of the three games when it mattered. The New England defense is not what it once was, and Fitzpatrick did a nice job carving up the Patriot secondary. When Fitzpatrick had a chance to force the game into overtime, however, he threw an interception on the first play of a drive when the Bills were down 38-30. He also overthrew Roscoe Parrish, who was heading towards the end zone, to get picked off deep in Patriot territory. Against Jacksonville, the Bills jumped out to an early lead, thanks to a couple of rare turnovers by a Bills’ opponent. Fitzpatrick hit Evans on a deep pass to put the Bills up early, but then the Bills’ offense sputtered, allowing Jacksonville to turn a 13-3 deficit into a 36-20 lead. But, as has been the case in a couple of games, Fitzpatrick showed his ability to beat the soft zones defenses play with big leads to get a late touchdown for the Bills. The Bills were terrible in all phases against the Jets, and while the Jets have a great defense, QBs worth getting excited about find ways to beat those defenses.
Which brings us to the Baltimore game. Playing a tough defensive team on the road, Fitzpatrick and the offense played a marvelous game. Is Fitzpatrick, a 27 year old fifth year pro, finally coming into his own as a QB? Is Chan Gailey’s offensive scheme a perfect fit for him, and can Bills’ fans expect to see more explosive offense in the coming weeks?
Did the Bills catch a Baltimore team at the right time, when they were sandwiched between the Patriots and Dolphins, and the Bills were coming off of their bye week. Did Dwan Edwards’ knowledge of the Ravens defense provide the Bills with keys they needed to be successful? Was this game the really only impressive offensive performance Fitzpatrick has lead the Bills to this season?
I suppose only time will tell. Personally, I feel that the Bills should still be sending scouts to Arkansas, Washington and Stanford. Fitzpatrick has played well, but he can be erratic with his accuracy at times, and seems to throw interceptions at the worst possible moments. He’s always seemed to be an intelligent player with good mobility, but I would not be looking ahead thinking Fitzpatrick is more than a holdover starting QB until the Bills’ next franchise QB is ready.
The Bills walk into another tough environment in Kansas City this Sunday, and will need some more offensive fireworks from Fitzpatrick and co. if they want to put something in the win column. We’ll see if they can duplicate their success on normal rest, and if Fitzpatrick can continue his climb to legitimacy.