Ryan Fitzpatrick is usually a serviceable NFL quarterback. Fitzpatrick was only a game away from leading the New York Jets to a surprise playoff appearance last season, and if not for an implosion in the final quarter of his 2015 campaign, they would have played in January.
In the Jets matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, Fitzpatrick yet again imploded, throwing 6 interceptions, a total that could have been much higher if the Chiefs defensive backs could come down with many of the balls thrown directly to them. It was easily the worst performance we have seen by any quarterback this season, and a performance that has the Jets wondering if Fitzpatrick is the man to take them the next step to reach the postseason this year.
Fitzpatrick’s first interception came late in the first quarter.
On third and long the Chiefs knew the Jets would look to pass downfield, and had five defensive backs drop into coverage.The Chiefs lined up man to man on the four Jets receivers, with Eric Berry lined up as a deep safety.
The main factor that led to the interception is the pass rush of the Chiefs, and the Jets offensive line failing to protect their quarterback. Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey did not meet much resistance on his way into the backfield, and man handled Jets guard James Carpenter. Ryan Clady gave the Chiefs Tamba Hali a little more trouble on the edge, but Hali still managed to put a hit on Fitzpatrick right after he released the ball.
Kansas City’s pass rush forced Fitzpatrick to act quickly on the play, and he never even had a chance to look away from his primary receiver. Fitzpatrick immediately looked towards Marshall once the ball was snapped, and looked at him the whole way as the rush reached him and he quickly dispatched the ball even if it meant throwing into danger. If he had looked elsewhere, though, there was not much for him to see. Quincy Enunwa was the only Jets receiver to get any sort of separation on the play, and Eric Berry was lurking behind him.
Fitzpatrick’s next interception didn’t come until late in the third quarter, but for this one the blame is entirely put on him.
The Chiefs chose to play zone coverage on a second and goal play from their own 6 yard line, and Fitzpatrick didn’t read it at all. He had good protection in front of him, and first looked towards Enunwa in the corner of the end zone, but Marcus Peters was all over him. Instead of going through his progressions, he chose to force the ball right over the middle towards Marshall, ignoring the fact that linebacker Derrick Johnson was right in between them. Johnson got a hand on the ball, tipped it into the air, and Eric Berry came down with an interception.
This play is yet another testament to how well the Chiefs coverage was all day on Sunday. Enunwa, the primary receiver on the play, was dealt with in one corner, and Eric Decker was jammed up by Steven Nelson on the opposite side of the field forcing Fitzpatrick to look towards the middle of the field. Billal Powel ran an out route, but was immediately smothered by Hali. Johnson, Berry, Frank Zombo and Ron Parker were all positioned in the middle of the field to deal with both Jalin and Brandon Marshall.
None of the Jets receivers could find any sort of space in such a short field, and every Chief that dropped into coverage fulfilled their assignment.
Ryan Fitzpatrick still has to do more on the play, though and its’s even more surprising how hard he tried to force the ball, seeing what happened on first down. Despite Johnson being perfectly positioned to make a play on the ball, he decides to throw it over the middle anyways.
The Jets quarterback obviously does not learn from his mistakes to well, as on the previous play he tried to lob it into the corner of the end zone despite Eric Berry being in the area. The result:
He got away with one, but instead of considering it a blessing and being more careful with the ball he made sure the Chiefs got the interception that they deserved on the previous play.
Forcing the ball into coverage, more so into the end zone, seems to be Fitzpatrick’s Achilles heel. He cannot resist throwing the ball towards his primary receiver at times, no matter what is between him and his target.
His next interception again came near the end zone. The Chiefs pass rush yet again tramples the Jets offensive line, and Fitzpatrick is forced to step up in the pocket to avoid Hali, and right before Hali and Jaye Howard reach him, he zips it towards Enunwa.
Unfortunately, Steven Nelson is all over Enunwa, makes a play on the ball tipping it into the air and it gets intercepted by Marcus Peters once again. Fitzpatrick get a bit of leeway as he was going to the ground, but if he wanted Enunwa to actually catch that ball it had to be towards his stomach instead of just over his head. The best option, though, would have been to just throw it into the ground at Enunwa’s feet, and again try again on third down.
Yet again, Fitzpatrick did not learn from an error on the previous play. Fitzpatrick tried to force the ball to Enunwa on a slant route on first down, but had to throw it a little in front of him to avoid coverage by Nelson.
Nelson still got a hand on the ball though, and Eric Berry was there as well in what proved to be a dangerous pass.
Fitzpatricks issues with forcing the ball into coverage, especially into the end zone, may have been what costed the Jets their playoff spot last season.
The Jets were only trailing by two and within field goal range in a game they needed to win in order to go to the playoffs, as long as they do not turn the ball over they should have at least taken a one point lead. Instead, Fitzpatrick stared his receiver down the whole way and threw into coverage.
His fourth interception, albeit not occurring anywhere near the end zone, was another example of Fitzpatrick repeatedly not taking care of the ball.
On first down he tried to force a ball to Erick Decker deep, despite safety Drew Sorensen being in the area, Sorensen breaks up the play but if he was there a step earlier the Chiefs would have had the ball back.
On third and ten, Fitzpatrick over threw Eric Decker on a corner route despite having Steven Nelson all over him and with Berry lurking near bye.
Berry nearly comes up with an interception.
On the very next play, Fitzpatrick overthrows Brandon Marshall on a fade. Nelson was yet again in coverage and the lurking Daniel Sorensen (again) came up with an interception on the sideline.
Yet again, Fitzpatrick was stuck on Marshall the whole play. He starred him down the entire route and was deadest on throwing the ball to him no matter what. Brandon Marshall had run a crossing route and had a bit of separation from Nelson who was covering him.
Fitzpatrick zeroed in on the on Marshall had, and did not account for the safety, Sorensen, running towards the sideline.
He slightly overthrows Marshall and has his fourth interception of the day.
Interception #5 was yet another example of Fitzpatrick zeroing in a receiver and throwing it to him no matter what.
Matt Forte ran a wheel route out the backfield, and was literally the only receiver that was given any attention by the Jets quarterback. Decker and Robby Anderson both ran routes on the other side of the field, and Brandon Marshall was open for a short completion that would have gotten a first down.
Fitzpatrick, though, was more interested in the back of Matt Forte’s head, and chose to throw it towards his running back. Derrick Johnson jumps the route and takes it back for a Chiefs score. Even if Johnson was not there, though, the ball would have just sailed out of bounds behind Forte, who did not turn around until after the ball had been intercepted.
Interception #6 was another forced pass by Fitzpatrick into the end zone late in the game. At this point though it was in vain, already down 21 points with two minutes to go, he may have just wanted to give rookie DJ White his first NFL interception.
There is obviously a deep underlying issue in Fitzpatrick’s decision making. He is a very skilled quarterback, and still deserves to be starting over the likes of Geno Smith, but is not the man for the Jets in the future if he does not work on this. He is good enough to beat lesser teams, but the Jets hope to compete in the playoffs this year, and will play other defenses on par with the Chiefs if they make it that far. The Jets are now 1-2, and if Fitzpatrick, mentally, does not get better, they will yet again be spending January at home.
Header photo via New York Jets