(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Heading into the practice week, head coach Todd Bowles had to have a Plan B and C for his quarterback situation, as well as a Plan A, for that matter. Both starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and back-up Geno Smith went down in last Sunday’s loss in Oakland and for a few days, it appeared that either rookie Bryce Petty or free agent Matt Flynn would get the nod. There were even whispers that someone like Colin Kaepernick would be brought in before the NFL trading deadline came and went. But when it was all said and done, Fitzpatrick made his eighth consecutive start for the New York Jets and was a big part of the 28-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It really wasn’t a huge factor,” Fitzpatrick said in his post-game press conference about the torn ligament in the thumb on his non-throwing hand. “A number of times, I was handing off with my left hand.”
Not only did the much-traveled veteran remain healthy enough to play the entire game, but he also went 21-of-34 for 272 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 106.5 passer rating. This came as no surprise to his top target.
“He’s resilient and he’s a great leader,” wideout Brandon Marshall said. “He’ll adjust and get a little bit more comfortable with the hand, but I think he did a tremendous job today.”
What made Fitzpatrick’s performance even more impressive is that Marshall was also banged up heading into the contest and center Nick Mangold’s neck injury caused him to be pulled in the first half in favor of Wesley Johnson, who played extremely well in place of the perennial Pro Bowler.
“The good thing about our offensive line is that every single one of us is always ready to play and we have a lot of depth,” the second-year player said. “And Fitzpatrick makes it real easy for us.”
By improving to 5-3, the Jets remain in the thick of the wildcard conversation and having a quarterback like Fitzpatrick has been a steadying influence on a roster that includes many powerful weapons in the skilled positions. Marshall and Eric Decker had one touchdown each and bruising running back Chris Ivory had an off game with only 26 rushing yards, but two of those were of the one-yard touchdown variety.
“We practice goal line every week and it’s something that we pride ourselves on by getting into the end zone,” fullback Tommy Bohanon explains. “Everyone up front did their job and Chris was able to take the crease and get in.”
Fitzpatrick had put his team into those red zone opportunities by completing passes to seven different receivers, including four passes of 20-or-more yards. When he needed to make a big play, he was able to do so. And when he needed to game manage and kill the clock, that was no problem, either.
“We were obviously still in a close game and needed to run the clock out and get the win,” continued Bohanon. “That was the mindset…keep running the ball, keep at it and keep the clock moving.”
He may not be in the same conversation as the Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys of the league, but Fitzpatrick has been able to put the Jets in a position to win games. And now that he has shown that he can play through and with pain, his stock has risen even further.