Six weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick dropped back and looked Marshall’s way, no different than he had on countless other occasions. Here, though, Marshall was covered. There was a cornerback draped all over the wideout, and a safety over top. As Marshall himself put it, the coverage “wasn’t ideal.”
Most quarterbacks would simply go to their second read. But Fitzpatrick saw the narrowest of windows.
“He throws a pretty nice back shoulder, so we thought we could get it in there,” Marshall said. “When we hit that, I was like…wow.”
Since that moment, Marshall and Fitzpatrick’s relationship has blossomed into one that is becoming, believe it or not, one of the more deadly combinations in the entire NFL. Already this season, the two have connected 101 times for 1,375 yards and 13 touchdowns. That on-field success is a big reason the Jets are in a position to, with a win Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, clinch their first playoff birth since 2010.
But while those numbers are staggering, what the two have done during the last five weeks is even more mind-blowing. Beginning against the Dolphins, Fitzpatrick and Marshall have hooked up 39 times for 576 yards and six touchdowns. Marshall has been over 100 yards and caught a touchdown in all but one game.
“I’m so comfortable in every little route that he runs,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can kinda get into his head, and he can kinda get into mine. That’s very helpful as a quarterback.
“When I can throw with 100 percent confident knowing where someone is going to be, or he can run a route with 100 percent confidence knowing where the ball is going to be located, it makes us that much better.”
The funny thing about Marshall and Fitzpatrick is that they’ve built such quick chemistry despite never playing together before. In fact, neither were even on the Jets roster a season ago. During the offseason, both were acquired by New York via trade…both for low-round draft picks.
Back in March, general manage Mike Maccagnan shipped a conditional seventh-round pick— which has since been upgraded to a sixth rounder due to Fitzpatrick’s playing time— to the Houston Texans for the rights to the quarterback. In order to add Marshall, Maccagnan dealt a fifth-round pick to the Chicago Bears.
Needless to say, New York has gotten quite the return investment on the picks. Fitzpatrick has tied the team’s single-season passing touchdown mark (29) and is within striking distance of the yardage record, he needs just 284 yards on Sunday. Marshall, meanwhile, has broken the reception mark and is within spitting distance of the touchdown (one away) and receiving yardage records (needs 58 yards).
Again, not bad for a fifth- and sixth-round pick.
“You’re like, ‘Man, I’m only worth a fifth-round pick?’ It makes you work even harder to prove your worth.”
Both Marshall and Fitzpatrick will be able to show just how much value they hold to the Jets this Sunday in Orchard Park. If the team is able to beat the Bills and ex-coach Rex Ryan, New York will not only win its sixth-straight, but also enter the postseason for the first time since Ryan was leading the team.
It will also be the first time in Marshall and Fitzpatrick’s 21 combined seasons that either plays a playoff game. And that, Marshall says, is better than any record shattered this year.
“To be honest, I still don’t know the records, as far as what receiver has the [touchdowns, yardage] records,” Marshall said. “But I do know the last time we won a championship here. That’s what everyone remembers. It’s my first year here and that’s all that matters.
“When you get it, you understand it. You understand legacy. It’s all about winning. That’s what’s important now.”
This article will also appear in Saturday’s edition of The Journal Inquirer