The heat has been on Bills quarterback Trent Edwards the last month as the offense has steadily regressed, and it's not going to get turned down now that the Bills have ended their three-game losing streak with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick coming on in relief to lead the way.
Edwards was knocked out of Buffalo's 16-13 overtime victory over the Jets with a concussion, and Fitzpatrick made his Buffalo debut a winner. The former Bengals backup, who saw plenty of playing time in place of injured Carson Palmer in 2008, completed only 10 of 25 passes for 116 yards, but he threw the ball downfield, got his wide receivers involved, and hit Lee Evans on a pretty 37-yard slant pass for a touchdown that tied the game in the third quarter.
"He played well," Evans said. "He's been somebody who's been an integral part of this offense ever since it has gone in. He knows what's going on, he's in tune, we talk to him a lot and he played well. We really didn't miss a beat."
Interesting comments from Evans who, if you remember, was a J.P. Losman supporter back in 2007 when Edwards wrestled the starting job away from the former No. 1 draft pick who busted for the Bills.
Edwards has been labeled Captain Checkdown and Trentative because he regularly takes the dump off rather than look downfield for intermediate completions. With Fitzpatrick on the field, Evans and Terrell Owens were much more involved. They had 19 balls thrown their way.
"That's what he's gonna do," Evans said. "He came in and had complete control of the huddle and he executed."
Edwards is still the No 1 quarterback, and if he can bounce back from his concussion he will be the starter in Carolina this week. However, now that the Bills have seen what Fitzpatrick can do, coach Dick Jauron may not be so hesitant to sit down Edwards when he struggles.
Fitzpatrick signed with the Bills as a free agent in the offseason after starting 12 games in Cincinnati in 2008. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, and he led Cincinnati to three straight wins to finish the season.
"He came in and obviously picked up the slack," said Owens, who was more involved in the passing game but only caught three passes for 13 yards against the Jets. "It's kind of tough standing there on the sidelines and then being thrown into the fire, but he came in with a lot of confidence and was zipping the ball around."
Fitzpatrick doesn't have great arm strength, but he is a smart player, a Harvard grad, and he clearly has a grasp of the Bills offense. Whether he's good enough to lead the Bills if Edwards is sidelined any length of time is uncertain, but the Bills seem capable of trusting him.
"He came in and made some plays for us," running back Fred Jackson said. "We're super proud of him and glad he stepped up for us."
LINEUP WATCH: The never-ending revolving door on the Bills' offensive line continued against the Jets. Right tackle Jonathan Scott was inactive with an ankle sprain, so Jamon Meredith was asked to make his first NFL start. That gave the Bills four first-year starters on the line. Rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre each made their sixth NFL starts, and left tackle Demetrius Bell made his fifth start.
By starting Meredith, who was signed by the Bills off Green Bay's practice squad a few weeks ago, the Bills show a lack of confidence in veteran Kirk Chambers, who has not played well when he has been asked to step for both Bell and Scott. Chambers had been cut by the Bills at the end of the preseason but was brought back when right tackle Brad Butler went down with a season-ending knee injury.
BY THE NUMBERS: 210 -- The Bills gave up 210 yards to the Jets' Thomas Jones, but still were able to beat New York. It was just the seventh time in NFL history a team has lost a game when one of its backs rushed for 200 yards or more, and the Bills have been prominent members in this exclusive club. The last time it happened was 2002, when the Bills whipped Miami 38-21 despite Ricky Williams' 228 yards. In the 1970s, Buffalo's O.J. Simpson twice surpassed 200 yards rushing in games that the Bills went on to lose.