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Fitz and Fred rivaling franchise bests

Posted Nov 1, 2011


Buffalo’s offense has been wildly successful thus far this season ranking third in points per game (30.1), fifth in rushing (140.6) and 10th overall (380.1). Largely responsible for a lot of the Bills offensive figures is the two-headed monster in the team’s offensive backfield.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is now third in the NFL in completion percentage (67.7%) behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. He’s also tied for fifth in touchdown passes with 14 and sixth in passer rating (97.8).

Perhaps most impressive is his current streak of games in which he’s had a completion percentage of better than 70 percent. On Sunday Fitzpatrick completed 77.8 percent of his passes (21-27), the highest single-game total of his career. It was his third straight game with a completion percentage of 70 percent or better becoming just the second signal caller in Bills history to do it (Jim Kelly, 1991).

What makes the production intriguing is Fitzpatrick does not believe he has peaked as a player. Set to turn 29 later this month, the Bills quarterback believes there are more rungs to climb on his career ladder.

“I'm going to continue to get better,” said Fitzpatrick. “I'm going to continue to improve every week, every month every year, and hopefully, this is just a good beginning for us.”

Fitzpatrick is on pace to have the second-most prolific passing season in Bills history as his current passing totals project to just under 4,000 yards passing for the 2011 campaign (3,974). That would be second only to Drew Bledsoe’s 4,359-yard season in 2002. On pace to throw 32 touchdown passes, he would fall just one short of Jim Kelly’s team record 33 in 1991.

Meanwhile Buffalo’s all-purpose running back is threatening to topple some of the single-season marks of the franchise’s two Hall of Fame running backs. Fred Jackson ranks fourth in the league in rushing (721 yards) and two of the players ahead of him have played in eight games to Jackson’s seven.

He’s third in yards per carry average (5.5), fourth in rushing touchdowns (6) and second in rushing yards per game (103). Jackson is on pace to rush for 1,648 yards, which would be third-best in Bills annals behind O.J. Simpson’s two best seasons in 1973 (2,003) and 1975 (1,817).

Jackson has topped the 100-yard rushing mark in five of the Bills seven games this season. Sunday was his third straight 100-yard rushing effort becoming the first Buffalo back to do that since Thurman Thomas in 1994.

Tied for fifth among running backs in receptions (27), Jackson is also fourth in receiving yards (353), second in receiving average (13.1) and first in the league among running backs with four receptions of 25 yards or more (4).

Turning in game-breaking plays has been a weekly occurrence for Jackson, who became the first Bills player ever to have a 40-plus yard run and a 40-plus yard reception in the same game on Sunday.

“It’s motivating,” said Jackson of the expectation to turn in big plays. “I’m putting together some plays for my teammates and I want to be the guy they can continue to count on to put plays together for them. Hopefully I can continue to go out, make some plays for them and we can keep on this streak that we have right now and make good on the things we set out to get done this year. Hopefully we can get them done.”

Second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,074), only Chicago’s Matt Forte has been more productive (1,091). And those 1,074 total yards through the first seven games this season is second only to Simpson’s 1,106 total yards in the first seven games of the 1975 season.

Fitzpatrick believes what’s driving himself, Jackson and the rest of the team is a collective desire to produce for one another.

“I think that’s part of the success that we've had is we're out there fighting for each other,” said Fitzpatrick. “I want to do my best out there. When I see Freddy taking on defensive ends and blocking him, I don't want to let that guy down.

“When Stevie makes a diving catch, when Eric Pears steps in, and Andy Levitre moves to left tackle to play… there's so many things that have happened this year. You don't want to let the guy next to you in the huddle down. That's how we play, and I think that helps us.”