There were plenty of candidates for MVP of week one. Both Aaron Rodgers and Kahlil Mack had huge games on the first Sunday night game. Reshad Jones, Denzel Ward and Bradley McDougald all had multiple interceptions. Most weeks I would’ve given it to Drew Brees, who threw for 434 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Philip Rivers had 424 yards and 3 touchdowns as well. However this week goes to the journeyman quarterback for Tampa Bay, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
There was a bit of a question mark at quarterback for Tampa Bay going into the first three weeks of the season due to Jameis Winston’s suspension. While Fitzpatrick was a serviceable backup in the past, he exceeded everyone’s expectations last Sunday, throwing for 417 yards, rushing for 39 yards, and scoring 5 total touchdowns (4 passing 1 rushing). A large factor in his success was his ability to hit receivers on the deep ball, as he had touchdowns from 36, 50 and 58 yards out. I mentioned Brees and Rivers earlier, both of whom had slightly more passing yards, however what was truly crazy about Fitzpatrick’s performance was how few passing attempts it took him to reach the yardage total he ended up with. While Brees threw the ball 45 times, and Rivers threw it 51 times, Fitzpatrick just threw the ball 28 times. Fitzpatrick ended up with an insane 14.89 yards per attempt, which was a full five yards more than any other quarterback on week one.
I think it’s fair to say this game was probably a career game for Fitzpatrick, however it’s not the only time he’s had a breakout performance. Back in 2014 he threw for 358 yards and 6 touchdowns against the Titans. His two major receivers week one were Mike Evans and Desean Jackson, who had 146 and 147 receiving yards respectively. As great as Fitzpatrick was, a large amount of credit has to go to right tackle Demar Dotson as well. He was matched up against Cameron Jordan for a large part of the game, and essentially shut him down. Fitzpatrick wasn’t sacked a single time this game, however that doesn’t mean he didn’t take any hits. Fitzpatrick wasn’t afraid to run the ball, as he picked up 39 total rushing yards. But he wasn’t one for a baseball slide down either, on his 3 yard touchdown run he took a hit to make sure he got into the endzone, however that wasn’t his biggest run of the day. Tampa Bay was up by 24, but Drew Brees and the Saints came roaring back, scoring two touchdowns and converting on both two point conversions, making it an 8 point game. After a couple of runs that that combined for a loss of a yard, Tampa Bay was facing a pivotal 3rd and 11 with 2:42 left in the game. If they failed to convert, New Orleans would’ve had plenty of time to attempt to score a game tying touchdown and two point conversion. However Fitzpatrick wasn’t about to let that happen, they needed 11 yard for the first down, and he rushed for 12. Tampa Bay was able to knee it, and complete a spectacular performance from Fitzpatrick.
It’s certainly a cool story, and you can’t help but feel good for Fitzpatrick. He received the game ball from head coach Dirk Koetter, and is my pick for MVP of week one, However I feel pretty confident in saying he’s never going to read this article. When he was asked about the Fitzmagic memes circulating around the internet, he responded with, “I thought it was called me me, but I guess it’s called meme. Some of the guys showed me some in the locker room, and I thought it was pretty cool. I tend to stay away from that stuff though, because there’s also a lot of bad stuff out there.” It’s probably a good idea for an athlete to not spend much time on the internet, as they hate many of them receive can be brutal. However there’s not too much negativity going around for Fitzpatrick after a performance like that. At least for week one, he’s the MVP. (And also, did you know he went to Harvard?)