The coaching staff gave Ryan Fitzpatrick another vote of confidence last week, naming him the starter against Miami Sunday.
The response was convincing.
While recording its highest scoring output in ten weeks, handing the Dolphins a 31-14 loss, the Bills showed little sign of offensive dysfunction. There was scoring in all facets and another breakout performance from Fitzpatrick.
Yes, the fourth-year signal caller threw for over 200 yards in consecutive weeks, but it was the mobility catching people's attention. Since the Bills were forced to use its seventh offensive line combination thus far, the game plan implemented several pass plays with Fitzpatrick on the move.
"We were going to move the pocket a little bit, something we've been trying to do all year, especially with some new guys up front, and that's one of the things you can do just to sort of get some easy dink and dunk passes in the game," Fitzpatrick said.
In winning his sixth game as an NFL starter, Fitzpatrick led four touchdown drives on 17-26 passing for 246 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also capped a scoring drive with a 31-yard run—the longest rush by a quarterback in team history. Just two possessions after Miami scored the first points of the game, Fitzpatrick completed a five-play, 85 yard drive scrambling around right tackle untouched for the score.
"Oh man, I didn't think I was going to score, I thought one guy was going to catch me, but I was huffing and puffing out there for sure. I haven't run that far in long time," Fitzpatrick said. "It was a pass play and with the coverage the way I got flushed, we really had the perfect route on because it moved everybody to the other side of the field and there was an opening for me to take off."
The run caught his blockers attention, too.
"I wasn't expecting him to keep it at all. We had a run sell, and he kept the ball and took it himself," Andy Levitre said. "I don't doubt he has the ability to run, he did a good job, and he scrambled a couple times for some yards. So I don't doubt his ability to run, but he saw an opening, went for it and got it."
Fitzpatrick's final stat line did include 50 yards rushing on seven carries, and his legs provided key plays again in the second half. After Miami rattled off a 16-play drive to start the third quarter, capped by a Ricky Williams touchdown run, Fitzpatrick directed a 13-play scoring drive spanning seven minutes.
Using his improvisation skills shown early in the game, he converted a third down play scrambling for six yards. Facing a 4th-and-1 on the Miami 36 just two minutes later, Fitzpatrick gained eight yards on a bootleg that continued the drive. A short screen pass to Fred Jackson for eight yards, in which Fitzpatrick had to scramble left and hurry the pass eventually set up Jackson's three-yard score.
The biggest statement came via the air, however, when he found Terrell Owens down the right sideline for a 51-yard touchdown. Similar to last week's game, when Fitzpatrick audibled from an original play call, he wanted to take advantage of Miami's alignments.
"We preached all week long that we want to be aggressive and take the shots when we can get them and that's just one of those plays where we had a chance to get the ball outside in one of our playmaker's hands and he was obviously very excited about it," Fitzpatrick said.
Interim coach Perry Fewell said the play spoke volumes of Fitzpatrick's unwavering confidence to attempt big plays.
"I love it. I told him, I said, you have some big guts and I told him as long as he keeps hitting them, keep throwing them," Fewell said.
Owens said changing the play was on Fitzpatrick's shoulders.
"Well, I think you tip your hat off to Ryan in that situation, because he dissected and assessed the defense and they were kind of moving around a little bit," Owens said. "We felt like we had some opportunities that slipped earlier in the game and he missed a few, so we wanted to be aggressive and it was his call, and it was up to us to make the play."
Fitzpatrick has developed a solid relationship with both Owens and Lee Evans in recent weeks. Both were targeted 11 times, and caught a combined seven receptions for 136 yards.
"I think it's the guys on the outside," Fitzpatrick cited as the reason for making aggressive plays. "We've got two of the best receivers in the league outside, so if you want to play them man to man, we've got a shot at winning."
It was far from a flawless performance. The offense converted just three third downs and a number of Miami's six sacks hurt field position. At the end of the day, however, Jackson said the team fed off Fitzpatrick's determination.
"You know, you feed off of those things. When he makes a call like that you don't want him to be wrong," he said. "You do everything that you can to make him right. I think a lot of guys bought into that and we were able to make him right and make that decision a good decision."