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Fitzpatrick's fearless play sparks Bills offense

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[December 02, 2009]  ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- For the first time since taking over as the Buffalo Bills interim coach, Perry Fewell didn't find it necessary to announce his starting quarterback.

HardwareThat decision is a given: Fewell's sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The fifth-year player, who began the season as Trent Edwards' backup, has secured the No. 1 job, most likely for the rest of the year. Fitzpatrick will make his third consecutive start -- and fifth this season -- on Thursday, when Buffalo (4-7) plays the New York Jets (5-6) in Toronto.

Fewell didn't need more convincing to end whatever quarterback debate there had been in Buffalo after Fitzpatrick's performance in a 31-14 win over Miami last weekend.

In a game in which the Bills outscored the Dolphins 24-0 in the final 14 minutes, Fitzpatrick's 51-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens stood out. Rather than play it safe and go with the short pass the Bills had called while nursing a 3-point lead, Fitzpatrick went deep when he saw Owens lined up against one-on-one coverage.


"He had a lot of confidence in that he could execute the play and get it done," Fewell said, acknowledging that his jaw dropped when he heard Fitzpatrick make the call at the line of scrimmage. "And I just think that speaks volumes for him because he saw the look and he went with what he felt was right."

In a season in which very little has gone right for Buffalo's sputtering offense, Fitzpatrick has at least provided a spark.

Under Fitzpatrick, the Bills have generated more than 340 yards of offense in each of their past two games, including an 18-15 loss at Jacksonville. Before that, the Bills had gone seven straight games without hitting the 300-yard mark.

Just as important, Fitzpatrick has begun to establish a deep passing attack by getting Owens more involved. After 366 yards receiving in his first nine games, Owens has 293 in his past two. That includes a season-best 197-yard outing against the Jaguars, in which Owens caught a 98-yard touchdown pass.

"With Fitz back there, there are opportunities. And I feel like I'm a part of the offense," Owens said. "Whereas I know earlier, those feelings and those opportunities, I didn't feel that they were there."

Owens went further by questioning whether Fitzpatrick should've had the chance to start sooner.

"Obviously, with us having the record we were having, just say if he was out there throughout the year and doing that?" Owens said. "He's putting us in the best position for the team to succeed."

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With a 2-2 record as a starter this season, Fitzpatrick also rallied the Bills to a 16-13 overtime win over the Jets on Oct. 18, taking over after Edwards was knocked out by a concussion.

Fitzpatrick's overall numbers aren't all that impressive. He's 73 of 134 (54 percent) for 905 yards, with four touchdowns and seven interceptions. But he's won the trust of the Bills receivers by attempting deep passes and throwing into coverage -- something Edwards resisted.

"He's definitely not afraid to take a shot. And he trusts what he sees," receiver Lee Evans said. "He has that type of savvy-ness about him, that leadership about him that you could just trust the guy."

Fitzpatrick signed with the Bills as a free agent this offseason after starting 12 games for Cincinnati last year after Carson Palmer was hurt. After a shaky start, he helped the Bengals finish 4-3-1, winning his last three games.

"I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone personally," Fitzpatrick said. "I know, especially after last year, that I can be a successful starter in this league. And now that I'm on another team and we're winning games, maybe that shows a little more."

[Associated Press; By JOHN WAWROW]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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