Fitzpatrick blames Jets' early struggles on himself
NEW YORK (AP) There's plenty of blame to go around for the New York Jets' 3-5 start. Ryan Fitzpatrick points the finger solely at himself.
The veteran quarterback has been bad, benched - and, lately, bounced back.
Fitzpatrick has helped lead the Jets to two straight wins and he knows it's on him to be a lot better in the last eight games if New York has any chance of making the playoffs.
''I think the biggest thing is that I haven't played well, and I think that's where it starts,'' Fitzpatrick said during a conference call Monday. ''Offensively, if your quarterback's not playing well, then you're not going to play well on offense.''
The offense is ranked 22nd overall, up a spot from last week. The running game has gotten in gear, with Matt Forte running for 82 yards in a 24-16 win over Baltimore and Bilal Powell adding 76. The passing game, which was such a force last season, has been mostly grounded, although Quincy Enunwa has emerged as a legitimate playmaker in Eric Decker's absence.
''I think we definitely played below expectations, especially speaking for the offense and myself,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''There's a lot of things that we need to do better if we're going to continue this winning streak and continue to win games, but I think it's been a huge disappointment.''
Fitzpatrick went on to say that he's ''proud'' of his teammates' resolve during the rough start - which can only help turn things around.
''I think we have the right guys in the locker room to do it,'' he said. ''I think that's what everybody feels. I think the confidence is up. Winning two games in a row, guys remember what it feels like.''
Fitzpatrick threw 11 interceptions in the first six games with just five touchdowns. Coach Todd Bowles sat him last week in favor of Geno Smith, who didn't even last a half because of what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury.
So Bowles turned back to Fitzpatrick, who did just enough - no turnovers - in the Jets' 24-16 win over Baltimore. He chided the front office for losing faith in him, and insisted his confidence was still strong.
''He's a quarterback, so any time it goes good or bad, the quarterback is the focal point, but there are a lot of reasons why we haven't played well the first half of the season,'' Bowles said. ''Either it's a guy here or a guy there. It's not necessarily the quarterback at all.''
On Sunday, Fitzpatrick shook off an awful first half in which he was 3 of 14 for 30 yards and rebounded with an efficient final two quarters in which New York rallied to a 31-28 victory at winless Cleveland.
It got so bad that even Broadway Joe himself took to Twitter to plea for Bowles to give second-year quarterback Bryce Petty a chance.
''Who thinks we should see Bryce Petty start the 2nd half?'' Joe Namath wrote. ''I know I do. It hurts to say this, but we're not goin anywhere with Fitzpatrick.''
Fitzpatrick brushed off the comments, saying, ''I understand it, 100 percent.''
''There's going to be a lot of times when people doubt you or your ability and sometimes rightfully so, but if you don't believe in yourself, then you have no chance in this league,'' he said. ''I didn't play well in the first half, but I thought we came out and did a good job in the second half with three of those drives, scoring touchdowns, and a lot of that is just through experience and having that confidence and believing in myself that I can get the job done, regardless of the circumstance.''
Namath, by the way, tweeted his approval after the game: ''Lousy first half, terrific second half. Nice goin Jets!''
Fitzpatrick finished 16 of 34 for 228 yards with a touchdown pass to Enunwa - and, again, with no turnovers. The final numbers were hardly eye-popping, but they're at least on the right track.
Fitzpatrick won over his teammates and many Jets fans with a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes last season. He re-signed for one year and $12 million just before training camp opened, satisfying many teammates who thought the offense could hum with their QB back under center. Fitzpatrick's early-season struggles, however, helped put the Jets in a 1-5 hole that he is slowly trying to help them dig out of.
''Whether it's fundamentals or thought process, whether it's physical or mental, I just have to continue to work every day and try to be a better player,'' he said. ''I think as I play better, the offense will do the same.''
NOTES: Bowles said TE Kellen Davis had a sore elbow, but was having X-rays taken after he was injured during one of Forte's touchdown runs. That was the Jets' only significant injury.
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