Ryan Fitzpatrick, the $12 million man, frustratingly came up short in the clutch, as his forced throw to Eric Decker was intercepted in the final minute with the New York Jets trying to get into field goal range. After Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a 16-13 halftime advantage with two touchdown passes, the Bengals held them to just six points in the second half.
The Jets didn't really let Fitzpatrick air it out -- or he chose not to -- because he completed three downfield throws over the middle but just one outside the numbers. The passing game enjoyed some success in between the 20s on short passes, but let itself down by coming up empty a few times close to the goal line.
While he took off a couple of times for positive yardage, Fitzpatrick perhaps eschewed a couple of chances to tuck and run in the red zone. Even on the play where he threw his first touchdown pass, he probably could have walked it in after the right defensive end bit hard on the run action despite there not being a play fake. This left Fitzpatrick and his two receivers with an easy three-on-two situation on the backside.
Fitzpatrick almost had a rushing touchdown on a designed quarterback draw, though, and I'm not entirely convinced the ball didn't break the plane. If it didn't, it probably would have if he stretched the nose of the ball out. Still, those can be the situations when a quarterback can expose his arm or shoulder to a big hit and also risk losing the ball, so I'm inclined to give him a pass on that one.
Fitzpatrick looked a little rusty all through preseason, and that continued into the first game as he threw behind his receiver a few times and took a couple of unnecessary risks. Hopefully it's something he can get past sooner rather than later, but this game was eminently winnable and likely to be viewed as "the one that got away." In a one-point loss, perhaps an incremental improvement somewhere could have made all the difference.
Would the offense have been more clinical with those scoring opportunities if the Jets and Fitzpatrick had sorted out their contract standoff earlier in the offseason? That remains to be undetermined.
After coming up short twice against the Buffalo Bills last year, Thursday night offers the promise of potential redemption and a chance to get the season back on track for both Fitzpatrick and the Jets. If they can't pull that one out, suddenly the margin of error to stay in contention for the division will start to look thinner than Robbie Anderson does in his slimming new number 11 jersey.
Up next... the new look offensive line performed well, but still struggled in a couple of key moments.