Ryan Fitzpatrick was trying to focus on a potential next offensive series. But as Josh Brown set up for what would have been a tying 48-yard field goal in overtime Sunday, the Jets quarterback heard chirping in his ear from a friend on the sideline.
It was Brandon Marshall, saying something about the stars being aligned. Fitzpatrick was not quite sure what he was talking about. It all was a blur in the giddy aftermath of Brown’s miss wide left and the Jets’ 23-20 overtime victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
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“I don’t know what he was saying,” Fitzpatrick said, shaking his head.
Marshall was happy to clarify. The chatty receiver was telling him how proud he was of his play. He was reminding Fitzpatrick that each has spent a decade in the NFL without making the playoffs and has “bounced around from team to team.”
Marshall said he also told Fitzpatrick this: “ ‘The football gods are hearing us right now, so he’s going to miss this kick.’ And he did.”
It was the latest turn in what has been a remarkable season for Fitzpatrick, who was hired to be Geno Smith’s backup and has won seven games as a starter for the first time in his 11-year career.
After throwing four touchdown passes in a pivotal victory over the Dolphins on Nov. 29, he followed that up Sunday by going 36-for-50 for 390 yards — the second-highest total of his career — with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Oh, and he outplayed his counterpart, Eli Manning, two-time Super Bowl MVP and scion of a famous football family. Fitzpatrick is a seventh-round pick out of Harvard.
“Same old Fitz,” receiver Eric Decker said of the quarterback’s demeanor when the Jets trailed 20-10 deep into the fourth quarter. “Command of the huddle, getting the play out, calm, collected. What a good leader should be.”
Said Marshall: “Even when we were sputtering a little bit, he still kept his composure. That’s the type of guy you want leading you. We’re just thankful to have him.”
Fitzpatrick was beaten up physically by an aggressive Giants pass rush early in the game and even allowed himself an uncharacteristic slide on one scramble.
But with the Jets trailing by seven and facing fourth-and-6 from the Giants’ 26-yard line, he ran 15 yards up the middle for a first down that kept the tying drive alive.
Fitzpatrick said he saw the defensive players turn their backs to him in coverage, so he took off. “That was a critical juncture of the game where I just saw I could definitely pick up the first down that way, and so that’s what I did,” he said.
Said Marshall, “That’s typical Fitzpatrick. Game’s on the line and he’s going to do something to take over.”
Two plays later, he hit Marshall from 9 yards for the tying touchdown with 27 seconds left. Marshall boxed out Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara and rose over him to make the catch.
“We’ve been working on this since Fitz took over, just throwing it high,” Marshall said. “You guys always ask me about chemistry. That play is a testament to the hard work.
“It wasn’t that way a few weeks ago, but these past two games we’re starting to click.”