On Sunday Ryan Fitzpatrick became the second quarterback in franchise history to pass for over 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons joining Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. In the way the 2011 season has unfolded, Fitzpatrick would undoubtedly trade whatever personal statistics he could in exchange for victories.
Buffalo's quarterback has been at the center of the offense's fall from one of the highest scoring teams in the league. Despite another humbling defeat Sunday the men in Buffalo's locker room stand firmly behind their co-captain and signal caller, who had arguably his most difficult outing of the season.
Fitzpatrick, much like the rest of the offense, struggled. His 13 completions were the fewest he's made all season, which led to his lowest completion percentage of the 2011 campaign as well (38.2%). Add in a pair of interceptions, both of which led to touchdowns for San Diego, and Fitzpatrick wasn't going to deny it was a subpar performance.
"Obviously looking at the numbers and the completions and the incompletions, it wasn't a great day," he said. "The two interceptions obviously, and I feel like I didn't throw the ball very well."
Inaccuracy has been an issue Fitzpatrick has worked hard to address all season. Missing on makeable throws early in games was an issue early in the season as well, but it was masked by extraordinary second half transformations when there were series where it seemed he couldn't miss. Those stretches of hot play however, haven't been seen very much on Buffalo's current six-game losing streak.
Even head coach Chan Gailey had to admit Fitzpatrick's consistency along with the rest of his offense has been compromised.
"At times he missed some things he hit earlier in the season. I see that as well," Gailey said. "I think he would say the same thing. Then I see him make a great throw right on the money down the sideline to Stevie on the go. I think it boils down to a consistency factor and I don't know what that is because we were very consistent the first part of the year."
The 52-yard pass play to Johnson was actually an audible from what was to be a shovel pass to C.J. Spiller. It's that kind of improvisation or recognition of an opportunity that makes Fitzpatrick so valuable. What was missing Sunday was capitalizing off a big play as they did in the first half of the season.
After Tashard Choice had a first down carry to set up first and goal after Johnson's catch and run, it was followed by a pair of incompletions and a sack. Buffalo had to settle for a field goal on a red zone possession, something that was also a rarity in the first half of the season.
"We're not doing the things offensively that we were being very consistent with in the first seven weeks of the season," said Gailey. "I would like to tell you that we're doing things differently on offense, but we're not. We're doing a lot of the same things and we're trying to get a lot of the same things done."
Fitzpatrick's first interception came off a tipped ball, but his second that was returned for a touchdown, was by his own account a poor read and sealed the win for San Diego.
"It was a naked roll out and the defensive end really didn't take the cheese," he said. "So it's one of those that you want to get rid of and I just did a poor job. The safety did a good job of reading where I was throwing and coming up and making the play. I did a poor job and made a poor decision on that one."
Fitzpatrick was one of the five most productive passers in the league in the first half of the season with better than 1,900 yards passing with almost two touchdowns per game and a completion percentage of better than 65 percent (65.4%).
On Buffalo's current six-game losing streak Fitzpatrick has thrown for just under 1,300 yards (1,274), completing 56 percent of his passes with a touchdown per game (6) and nine interceptions.
His teammates still believe in him, but it's been difficult for them to see him struggle of late.
"Yeah it's tough because he's a brother and you don't want to see your brother go through anything bad," said Stevie Johnson. "So seeing him go through it's like we all go through it. He's our quarterback, he's our head. When he goes through it, we go through it. We've just got to uplift him just like he does with us. When we make mistakes he's there for us. It's tough, but we're all grown-ups we've got to get through it."
And Johnson knows the only way to persevere is to stick together when their play is suffering.
"When we're losing there's no one person that's the reason," Johnson said. "Just like when we win there's no one person. He's going through it just like we are. With Fitz he'll have better days. He'll have good days, he'll have bad days, just like we all will. We're still riding with him."
"To start off 5-2 and playing good football and the last six weeks we haven't played good football. It's gone away," said Fitzpatrick. "We've just got a find a way to regain that."