A friend of mine is convinced exactly what caused the Bills’ current skid.
He cites the $59 million, six-year contract extension — $24 million guaranteed — signed by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in late October.
The game after the signing was announced, Buffalo put up its best performance of the season, shutting out the Redskins in Toronto.
Since then, though — with the exception of one game — the Bills’ QB has been everywhere from fair to awful.
And though I’ve argued against my buddy’s logic, Fitz’s recent numbers make a strong case to the contrary.
Other than a three touchdown, no interception, 111.5 passer rating effort in a loss to the Jets at the Meadowlands, and a decent performance against Tennessee at “The Ralph” a week ago, Fitzpatrick has struggled mightily during the current six-game losing streak.
Aside from that Jets’ game, in the other five during the losing streak, Fitzpatrick has hit only 97 of 181 passes (a sub-standard 54 completion percentage) for barely 200 yards a game and, most tellingly, nine interceptions with only three touchdowns and a passer rating in the mid 50s.
And likely his worst effort in that stretch came Sunday afternoon in the 37-10 loss to the Chargers at San Diego.
Fitzpatrick finished an ugly 13-of-34 passing for 176 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions, one of them returned for a killer TD.
CLEARLY this loss was a team effort, but Fitzpatrick shouldered much of the blame.
“Looking at the numbers, the incompletions I threw ... two interceptions,” he said, “it wasn’t a great day and I didn’t feel I threw the ball very well.”
Including one ill-fated throw.
After Buffalo had cut the lead to 16-10 on a defensive touchdown five minutes into the third period, the Bills had seemingly forced a three-and-out as the Chargers’ faced 4th-and-2 at their own 40.
Instead, on a gutsy call by coach Norv Turner, safety Eric Weddle, the upman, took the snap on a fake punt and picked up the first down that kept alive a 78-yard touchdown drive.
Now the Bills were down 23-10, but still in it ... until the play after a touchback on the kickoff when Fitzpatrick threw a strike to San Diego safety Steve Gregory who returned the interception 26 yards for a score.
Now it was 30-10 and ... game over.
“We felt we had some confidence in the second half, even after the fake punt, but it was gone after the ‘pick six’ that I threw,” Fitzpatrick said. “I thought we had made some progress the last few weeks ... but today we took a step backward, we didn’t do anything well.”
Buffalo coach Chan Gailey, when asked about Fitzpatrick’s recent struggles, admitted, “He hasn’t been making the plays he made earlier in the year.
“He’s made some bad throws ... but he’s also made some very good ones.”
Not enough to end a six-game losing streak though.
And Gailey admitted that while his team hasn’t quit on the season’s final three games, its collective mood is down.
To which Fitzpatrick added, “In the lockerroom right now there certainly isn’t a good feeling. We’ve kept up the spirits the last few weeks because we felt like we played better and were in games. But this week was a very tough loss because of the fashion in which we lost.
“We started out 5-2 and are playing good football but the last six weeks we haven’t done that.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)