Last week, I came up with a definition for an NFL quarterback's equivalent of a "quality start" - 60% completions and more touchdowns than interceptions - and Fitzpatrick has achieved that twice in two games. Geno Smith did it once in 2013 and once in 2014, with a string of 23 consecutive games without one in between. To give some further context to that "Quality Start" stat, Chad Pennington did it approximately once in every three games in his career, Vinny Testaverde did it seven times in the 1998 regular season and Mark Sanchez did it nine times in his Jets career, plus three more in the postseason.
While he might not have Smith's upside, maybe Fitzpatrick is the ideal quarterback for this team as currently constituted. It's going to be interesting to see how he'll handle any adversity, but so far his consistent play has been a settling influence.
Perhaps the one play that sold it for me was where Brandon Marshall adjusted his route and Fitzpatrick recognized, anticipated and executed the throw. Two veterans players, on the same page, making a simple read and then Marshall using his athletic ability to turn that into a 40-plus yard play. It seems so easy, but the Jets just don't seem to have had the players at - quarterback or receiver - to make that happen in the recent past.
Something similar happened on the game-clinching touchdown throw to Marshall. The Jets must have known they had this play in their locker and would bring it out at an appropriate time. With the running game starting to be effective, they bunched a formation so that there was space on the outside and Marshall had room to beat the defender in single coverage without the safety being able to come across and help. After a sneaky hand signal from Fitzpatrick ensured they were both on the same page, Marshall fought off the jam and got an outside release on the corner, at which point the play was already a win for the Jets because the defender held Marshall. Fitzpatrick put nice touch on a back shoulder throw in a place where only Marshall could get it and, after making the easy catch, Marshall did the rest.
Fitzpatrick really didn't need to do anything spectacular in this game. He just used the abilities of Decker and Marshall to win at the line and made simple throws to them when they were there - which, with all the injuries the Colts have had at cornerback, was quite often. Eric Decker had mismatches all day, even getting a couple of easy first downs on linebackers from the slot. Fitzpatrick didn't shy away from Vontae Davis though and his touchdown to Decker was with Davis in coverage, as he was playing too far off and a well designed route combination cleared plenty of space underneath for Decker to run into.
One area for concern is that maybe Fitzpatrick is relying on these two too much. He only completed one other pass - late in the game - to a different wide receiver or tight end. He even missed a wide open Decker over the middle and instead threw deep to Marshall in double coverage. Of course, lofting a jump ball to a player like Marshall can be a successful play, but it's not without risk, as his early interception showed. Still, at least it was on a downfield throw rather than one brought back into Jets territory or returned for a score.
It would be good to see him spread the ball around a bit more going forward, but they're still getting to grips with this new offense, so I don't mind an over-reliance on the trusted veterans early on. Obviously if Decker will miss any significant time with his knee issue, then Fitzpatrick will be forced to widen his horizons anyway.
As noted, Fitzpatrick didn't need to do anything too spectacular although he made a couple of nice decisions and hit a few guys in stride while only missing a couple of open throws. He did try to force the ball downfield a few times, though, as mentioned. Fitzpatrick also did well to avoid a sack on one play. Officially he was sacked for the first time this season while scrambling back towards the line after being flushed from the pocket by an unblocked rusher so maybe he failed to recognize the blitz there. While the line deserves credit for that, it shows that he's done a good job of anticipating and avoiding the rush and getting rid of the ball.
So far, Fitzpatrick is making it seem simple and that's great for this team. Know your limitations and do the simple things well and you can win in the NFL if you have a good team around you. Maybe, as Jon Gruden said during the broadcast, this is "the best team he has ever started at quarterback for". If he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll continue to start for them for the rest of the year and maybe beyond.
Next up...after a rocky first half, the Jets crucially got their ground game going up front...