In First Full Year as a Starter, Fitzpatrick Fades After Brilliant Beginning

Published by Daniel A. Grafstein on January 02, 2012 at 11:34PM

After Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 and the Buffalo Bills captured a dramatic Week 3 victory over their divisional foe and frontrunner, the New England Patriots, the 3-0 Bills seemed poised to rewrite recent history and threaten the traditional AFC East powers.

The game featured a little “Fitzmagic.” With big plays and precision passing, Fitzpatrick led his team down the field for two scores in the fourth quarter en route to victory. Fitzpatrick’s play was bolstered by a stingy Bills’ defense, which forced four interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.

But as the game ended, so too did Buffalo’s good fortune. After splitting the next four, the Bills would fade back into obscurity, only mustering one more win all season (a Week 16 blowout over Tebow’s Denver Broncos).

Much like yesterday’s debacle in New England, it was a tale of two halves for Fitzpatrick, who led the Bills to a +64 point margin through seven games. During that stretch, which lasted through the last weekend of October, Fitzpatrick threw for 1739 yards, completed 68 percent of his passes, and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 2.0.

Since then, Fitzpatrick has had more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (10). And in Weeks 9-17, he completed just 58 percent of this throws while averaging 15 fewer passing yards per game than he did in the year’s first seven contests.

Despite the team’s lackluster finish, the seven-year veteran performed better than most had predicted. At the end of the season, Fitzpatrick cumulated 207 fantasy points in a standard ESPN league. This mark bested his season projections by 61.

For the first time in his career, Fitzpatrick started every game for Buffalo, and his 79.1 season QB rating is second only to last year’s personal best of 81.8. While his quarterback rating was good for 22nd in the NFL, the former Harvard gunslinger finished in the top 10 in both touchdowns and completion percentage.

Off the field, Fitzpatrick signed a six-year, $59 million contract extension in October, becoming the first starting Bills’ quarterback to do so this millennium and the heir to the Jim Kelly throne.