Thursday, September 22, 2011

I love what Fitzpatrick has done, but I need to see he and the Bills beat an elite team before becoming euphoric about them

Euphoric, victory-starved Bills fans have begun asking, “Who needs Luck when you have Fitzmagic?”

The references, of course, are to current Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andrew Luck, the Stanford University senior signal-caller who is destined to be the Heisman Trophy winner this December and the No. 1 NFL draft pick next April.

Believe me, as someone who has covered this lost decade of Bills football, I understand the fans’ giddiness. They’ve been famished for something, anything positive. And Fitzpatrick, the Harvard graduate who could easily be plying his trade on Wall Street instead of One Bills Drive, has given them reason for hope.

He and his surprising 2-0 Bills are one of the feel-good stories in the early going of this NFL season. His Brady-like numbers – 7 touchdown passes, just one interception, 40 points-per-game – have people in these parts and beyond thinking, maybe, just maybe, the quarterback roulette that’s been playing in Buffalo since Jim Kelly’s retirement 14 years ago is about to stop.

I hope that is indeed the case.

I hope the seventh-round draft pick who went to Harvard after failing to receive a single Division I scholarship offer is about to become the next Kurt Warner – a journeyman who came out of no-where to become an NFL star.

But I still need to see more from Fitz before I start clamoring for a cereal to be named for him.

Fitz, an eminently likeable chap, has guided the Bills to wins in six of his last 10 starts. But he has yet to produce a signature victory against an upper echelon team.

That opportunity presents itself Sunday when unbeaten Buffalo (man, I haven’t written that in awhile) faces the New England Bradys, er, Patriots at the soldout and sure to be rockin’ Ralph.

Tom Brady amazingly has taken his Hall of Fame game to an even higher level with close to 1,000 passing yards through two games. He is completing a mind-boggling 71 percent of his passes.

Of course, we are used to seeing such magnificence from the quarterback with the three Super Bowl rings.

Brady has helped the Pats dominate the Bills, who have lost 15 straight in the series.

The wizards of odds in Vegas have installed New England as touchdown favorites.
Interestingly, as good as the Brady Bunch has been, this is not a team without its flaws. The quarterback’s heavenly play has masked some serious defensive deficiencies. You can definitely throw and run and score on the Pats.

Fitz’s performances against New England last season were a mixed bag. In his first start against them, he was 20-of-28 for 247 yards, two scores and two picks in a 38-30 loss. When he met the Pats again later in the season, he struggled mightily – throwing three picks while compiling a paltry 37.1 quarterback rating in a 34-3 loss.

Credit Bill Belichick, who has a reputation for confusing even the brightest of quarterbacks, for making significant adjustments the second time around.

The best way for the Bills to win will be to control the clock, win the time-of-possession battle, keep Brady off the field. Engaging in a shootout might be entertaining for awhile, but Brady very well could wind up with 600 passing yards against a Bills “D” that still isn’t getting enough pressure on quarterbacks and was burned badly when its defensive backs didn’t compete strongly enough for balls in the air.

Fitz and the Bills have been impressive so far. They bludgeoned a bad football team in the opener the way good football teams are supposed to. And they kept their cool and made a stirring comeback against the Raiders.

New England, though, will be a much sterner test. Should Fitz & Co. pull off an upset, we’ll see giddiness in Bills Nation the likes of which we haven’t seen since Doug Flutie was performing his magic act a decade ago.


Anonymous said...

To say that you need a signature win over a top team is ignoring the fact that they beat the steelers last year if stevie catches a perfectly thrown ball. The team still needs a ton of work, esp on defense; asking the qb to beat teams that are overall better isn't quite fair.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Scott. I have some copies of "Memories of Yankee Stadium" that I would love to get autographed, maybe inscribed, to some young baseball fans I know. Is there a place where I could mail them to you? If you don't want to post here, I can be reached at asktravis at gmail dot com. Thank you!