FLORHAM PARK N.J. - Don’t worry Jets fans this isn’t a story bashing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nor is this a declaration of panic by any stretch of the imagination. This is simply just my assessment of Fitz’ performance yesterday afternoon.
I’ll start by saying that Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was a crushing defeat and the Jets had no business losing the game. You can toss blame at several things, Brandon Marshall’s huge drop, Nick Folk’s misses or conservative play calling. For now I’ll just get into Fitz’ play specifically.
Fitzpatrick finished the day (19/35 on 189 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception). He also had four rushes for 15 yards. Although his numbers weren’t terrible they weren’t great either. He opened up the game with solid play. On the first offensive series for Gang Green he took them 78 yards down the field and capped off the drive with a nice three-yard pass to a wide open Quincy Enunwa. After Marcus Williams intercepted quarterback Andy Dalton, the Jets were in great field position, good enough to get some points on the board. Fitz had Marshall wide open in the back of the end zone but he simply threw it too high. Credit the Bengals' secondary, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who had an excellent game against Marshall, but the Jets should’ve easily scored on that play and went up two scores with a highly energized crowd on its side. Unfortunately, Folk would have his short field goal attempt blocked by Margus Hunt stalling the drive and shifting the momentum to Cincinnati. Red zone execution is something the Jets didn’t do well at all and Fitz pointed that out.
“We have to score touchdowns,” Fitzpatrick said after the game. “We got down there plenty. Credit the Bengals. They’ve got a good Red Zone defense. They’ve got a good scheme. They’re stingy down there, but we’ve got to do a better job of executing. I felt like that was the big difference in the game today, not taking advantage of some of those opportunities for us and settling for field goals.”
The Bengals would respond with a deep 53-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green. Later in the second quarter, Fitz would come back with a five play drive that ended with his bread and butter back shoulder pass to Eric Decker, which was a 15-yard touchdown.
The Jets only scored six points in the second half (two field goals). Fitzpatrick had a pedestrian second half and he missed some open receivers. Matt Forte handled business in the run game but there’s no doubt that the offense went conservative allowing the Bengals to get more and more comfortable as the game went on. The play calling by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was good but there weren’t many plays called that could stretch the defense, it was mostly just underneath throws. Fitz averaged 5.4 yards per completion on the day. He was also hit just three times including being sacked once. The offensive line played well and I think that had the playbook been opened up a bit more he would’ve had time to find his targets. The question is would he have been able to make accurate throws?
Obviously, the big miscue happened on the final drive when Fitz threw the interception that put the game away. To be fair, Marshall dropped a pass that would’ve given the team a chance to win the game, but that doesn’t excuse the interception at all. He’s got to be on the same accord with his receivers, in this case Decker.
Fitzpatrick was outplayed by Dalton, who was sacked 7 times, hit 10 times and under pressure from the Jets all night. What I’m most concerned about going forward is whether Fitz can show up in big games this season and we know the Jets have a lot of those on the schedule. However, it is just the first game and Fitzpatrick has a chance to redeem himself Thursday night in a road game facing the Buffalo Bills, a team that forced three turnovers against him in the Jets’ regular season finale last season. Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of being an elite quarterback he just needs to stay the course and show consistency throughout all four quarters of a game.
“We had a bunch of times to win the ball game, offensively, defensively and special teams,” head coach Todd Bowles said after the game. “Each group made their mistakes but we’re not going to sit here and lick our wounds we got a game Thursday night we’ve got to correct it in a hurry we’ve got to turn around and play.”
I won't chalk this one up as entirely Fitz’ fault because mistakes were made all around. I just expected more out of Fitz, based on what he was able to do last year and the weapon's he's currently working with. I'll give Fitzpatrick an overall performance grade of B-.
“If we lose the game ain’t nobody play well,” said Bowles.
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for Jetsinsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).