Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bucs improve to 2-0 with upset of Eagles
Nick Foles is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but Ryan Fitzpatrick sure looks like the NFL’s best backup-turned-starting quarterback right now.
After torching the Saints with five total touchdowns in Week 1′s most stunning result — Buccaneers 48, Saints 40 — Fitzpatrick tallied four more scores as the Bucs improved to 2-0 with another stunning result, this time beating the Super Bowl-champion Eagles, who fell to 1-1.
Starting again in place of a suspended Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick found ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson over the top of the Philadelphia ‘D’ on the game’s first play from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown. He later hit O.J. Howard on another 75-yard scoring bomb and found Chris Godwin on the Bucs’ next possession for an eight-yard touchdown and a 20-7 halftime advantage for Tampa Bay.
Fitzpatrick’s fourth score, a four-yard TD pass to Mike Evans midway through the third quarter, gave Tampa Bay a 27-7 lead before the Eagles rallied for two touchdowns to make their defeat a more respectable 27-21.
Speaking of respect, it might be time to throw some more Fitzpatick’s way and acknowledge the increasingly real possibility — likelihood, even? — that he won’t be relinquishing his position to Winston upon the incumbent’s Week 4 return in Chicago. Fitzpatrick has rang up passer ratings of 156.2 and 144.4 in his first two Bucs starts. Winston’s highest-rated game last season, during which he failed to lead the Bucs to consecutive victories, like Fitzpatrick has out of the gate was a 131.1 mark, which nearly was Winston’s career high.
Remember, Winston was already in a make-or-break Year 3, which obviously began with him again letting down the team that selected him first overall in 2015. He’s had spurts of brilliance, but Winston’s on-field NFL career thus far must be considered inconsistent at best. That, of course, normally best describes the career of the journeyman Fitzpatrick, who couldn’t currently be more locked in.
Fitzpatrick, though, must stay hot when the 0-1-1 Steelers come to town next Monday night. Judging by the way the Steelers have played ‘D’ so far this season, that might not be too difficult. But Fitzpatrick’s career isn’t exactly one defined by steadiness; his highs have always been very high, and his lows tend to reach rock bottom in a hurry.
As for the Eagles, they certainly didn’t expect to welcome Carson Wentz back to the starting lineup in Week 3 vs. the Colts at 0-2. But that’s likely where they are now. Reports indicate Wentz is on track to return next week from his December ACL surgery in time to battle his old offensive coordinator, Frank Reich’s Colts, who did do Philadelphia a solid by going on the road and knocking off Washington on Sunday, ensuring no NFC East club will be better than 1-1 when the weekend concludes.
Will replacing Foles with Wentz prove to be a season-saver for the Super Bowl champs? Foles completed 35-of-48 for 335 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs, taking a major step up from his rocky Week 1 outing at home vs. the Falcons. And he obviously wasn’t responsible for the Eagles’ ‘D’ ceding 436 yards (7.5 per play) in Tampa Bay.
But Foles hasn’t provided anywhere near the spark and sterling play that we saw in the playoffs and from Wentz routinely last season. Foles simply set the QB2 bar way too high, apparently for everyone not named Ryan Fitzpatrick.