The rookie seventh-round pick from Harvard, who won the team's third-string job in training camp, came off the bench Sunday to replace an injured Jamie Martin and led the Rams to an improbable 33-27 overtime win over the Houston Texans.
The Rams trailed 24-3 at halftime and had been outgained by the Texans 237-117. Fitzpatrick entered the game in the second quarter and led the Rams to their only points of the half. In the third and fourth quarters, he passed for 179 yards and added 86 in overtime to go with three touchdown passes.
Most notably, Fitzgerald came through in clutch situations, and he ran for 23 yards on three attempts to aid the comeback.
Said interim coach Joe Vitt, "I don't think you can say enough. He was under duress a lot. Most of the time, all day, the Texans showed some different looks. It's what we talk about all week long in practice. He's got poise, he's got intelligence, he's got a strong arm, he's got great feet, and he's got the ability to make the impromptu play."
In the second half, Fitzpatrick completed four of six passes for 59 yards and three first downs on third down. One was a 19-yard touchdown to Torry Holt. He also ran for a first down on third-and-10, hit wide receiver Isaac Bruce for a 43-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-6, and the Texans were guilty of a 35-yard pass interference penalty on third-and-3.
The touchdown to Bruce cut Houston's lead to 27-24 with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But the biggest third-down success might have been an 11-yard completion to Holt on third-and-9 from the Rams 11-yard line in overtime.
Fitzpatrick exuded a confidence that was difficult to explain. He said, "I knew there was no way we were going to lose that game. You get that feeling out there of invincibility, the way the offense was playing late and the way people stepped up out there."
Said wide receiver Kevin Curtis, whose only catch of the game was the 56-yard game-winner in overtime, "He came in and acted like he's done it before. He wasn't nervous. He just came in and played the game."
Added right guard Adam Timmerman, "He did a great job. He definitely deserves a lot of credit. He has a lot of poise. He has great presence. We cranked out some plays and were moving down the field. He knew where guys were going to be. It was a couple of times where he could have done better, but he came back and redeemed himself."As did the Rams.
The Rams scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including 10 in the last 26 seconds, to overcome a 24-3 deficit and defeat the Texans, 33-27 in overtime.
Despite the heroics of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the overtime wouldn't have happened had kicker Jeff Wilkins not perfectly hit an onside kick after the Rams had cut the Texans' lead to 27-24 with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Wilkins bounced the kick high, and two Rams hit a Texans player as he jumped for the ball, which rolled off the back of Trev Faulk before being recovered by Torry Holt at the Houston 48-yard line.A 19-yard completion set the stage for a Wilkins' 47-yard field goal that tied the game with four seconds remaining.
--QB Jamie Martin left the game in the second quarter with what was first said to be a concussion, but later explained as blurred vision. Martin went to a Houston hospital, but he returned and flew back to St. Louis with the team.
--LT Orlando Pace, who missed practice for two days with a hamstring injury, started Sunday against Houston but didn't play in the second half after aggravating the injury in addition to hurting his hip compensating for the injury.
--OT Alex Barron, who started the game against Houston on the right side, switched to left tackle in the second half after starter Orlando Pace left with hamstring and hip injuries.
--OT Rex Tucker played the second half at right tackle when Alex Barron was moved to left tackle after Orlando Pace left the game with hamstring and hip injuries.
--OT Matt Morgan was added to the roster on Saturday and was active for the game against Houston as a precaution. Morgan was the next tackle off the bench after Orlando Pace couldn't play in the second half.
--RB/KR David Allen was a surprise inactive for Sunday's game against Houston. Allen had given some life to the team's return game, but injuries on the offensive line and forced the Rams to have an extra lineman active for the game.--WR Dominique Thompson was placed on waivers Friday, but the Rams hope to add him to the practice squad if he clears waivers Monday.
Quarterback Kurt Warner has played well enough this year that the Cardinals should be interested in re-signing him.
Warner has looked sharp since returning to the starting lineup a month ago, and he's given the offense some stability. Warner's wife Brenda is expecting twins in December or January, and he's not anxious to move his family for the third time in three years.
"Sure, let's do it now," Warner said when asked if he was interested in a new contract in Arizona. "Why not? I'm ready. I still think we've got a good thing going here. I feel like we're going to get the corner turned at some point."
You have to look hard for positive signs in a 3-8 season, but there are some pieces in place. Receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are playing well, and Warner knows how to get them the ball. Running back J.J. Arrington is starting to show some promise after a slow, tentative start.
The offensive line needs work, although some of the replacement parts have played well lately.
Keeping Warner would be a step in the right direction. Backup Josh McCown will be an unrestricted free agent, and he's likely to leave at the end of the season. That leaves John Navarre as the only quarterback under contract in 2006.
Warner would like to play two or three more years, and Arizona would be the perfect place to do it. He could start for another year or two until the team develops a young quarterback.
The Cardinals made too many mistakes, most notably 11 penalties, to have a chance against a decent team like Jacksonville.
Those penalties, combined with allowing the Jaguars' big plays, contributed heavily to Arizona's 24-17 loss Sunday.
The Cardinals had just 90 yards of offense in the first half but got on track in the second with 278 yards. But they couldn't make big plays to score. Jacksonville made the Cardinals work for everything.Defensively, the Cardinals knocked out Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich in the first quarter, the second straight week they've been able to knock out a starting QB.
--K Neil Rackers is no longer perfect. His 32nd field-goal attempt of the season, a 43-yard try Sunday against Jacksonville, went wide left. It was his first miss this season, ending his streak of 31 straight. The wind was swirling, but Rackers didn't make excuses. "It was me. I missed the kick. I pulled it a little bit," he said.
--CB Antrel Rolle is expected to work out at the team's facility in Tempe, Ariz., after spending most of the past two months in Miami. Rolle underwent knee surgery in October and was doing rehab in Florida. He is not on injured reserve, and he's hopeful of playing within a couple of weeks.
--SS Adrian Wilson blitzed a considerable amount Sunday for the second straight week. Wilson is more effective playing close to the line of scrimmage, especially against the run. He's blitzed a high percentage of the time the past two weeks and has 14 tackles and three sacks.--The interior offensive line might be able to hold up while it waits for injured players to return. Backup guards Adam Haayer and Fred Wakefield played well against Jacksonville despite playing out of position. Both are more comfortable at tackle.