FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New England may have a future Hall of Famer in Tom Brady, but the Jets are feeling pretty good about their chances against the Patriots on Sunday.
“FitzMagic,” cornerback Buster Skrine said, smiling, as he talked about quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick during a one-on-one interview Tuesday. “I mean, he’s always making plays. Yeah, they have a great player, but I think we have a great quarterback, too. If you look at Fitz the last couple of games, he’s been doing a great job.”
Saturday night’s 19-16 win over the Cowboys was the latest example of Fitzpatrick’s late-game magic. He was 10-for-12 in the fourth quarter for 132 yards, including a 43-yard pass to Kenbrell Thompkins that helped set up the winning field goal with 36 seconds left.
In a buoyant visitors’ locker room at AT&T Stadium, linebacker Calvin Pace raved about Fitzpatrick’s comeback ability. “Fitz is an awesome player. I am glad we got him,” Pace said. “Making plays with his legs, making throws. He is a big-time player. I’m hoping he has enough votes for our team MVP, because he deserves it.”
The 33-year-old journeyman has opened eyes as the leader of the new-look Jets, a 9-5 team still in the AFC wild-card hunt. Over their past four games — all victories — Fitzpatrick has passed for 1,229 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception for a 105.7 rating. His career-high 26 TD passes are three shy of Vinny Testaverde’s 1998 club record), and he needs 305 passing yards to move ahead of Testaverde (3,732) for the third-best season total by a Jet.
But not all of Fitzpatrick’s stats are pretty. As a starter, he’s 1-7 against the Patriots. Asked about his lack of success against New England, he said: “I don’t think a lot of people have. They’re a pretty good team. I mean this is a completely different team. Each year in Buffalo was a completely different team.”
The good news is the Jets appear to be much more cohesive than they were in Week 7, when they lost, 30-23, in Foxborough. (Brady threw for 355 yards and two TDs and ran for a TD, while Fitzpatrick completed 22 of 39 for 295 yards and two TDs. Now, their season is on the line, and to maximize their playoff chances, they’ll have to beat the defending Super Bowl champions.
“This is a huge one for me and I’m excited,” said Fitzpatrick, who has played for six teams in 11 seasons and never made the playoffs. “This is why everybody in here plays the game: Playing football games like this in December and have a shot at playing longer.”
The key this week for the Jets’ offense is the same as it was against Tennessee and Dallas. “Play with composure,” he said. And that’s something Fitzpatrick demonstrates on the field and in the huddle.
“When you’ve got this job on your shoulders, you can’t take things too serious, especially at quarterback,” slot receiver Jeremy Kerley said. “First of all, nobody will want to be around you if that’s how it is. And then nobody will really want to play for you because you’re too serious all the time.
“But if you’re cool, you’re chill, you have a personality — and you’re winning? That’s a good combo.”