A fast start gave the Bills promise they hadn't had in years, but a memorable September has given way to a miserable November.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick must shoulder some blame for Buffalo's current three-game losing streak, just as he deserved credit when the Bills (5-5) won four of their first five games. Fitzpatrick threw for 14 touchdowns in Buffalo's first seven games, a major factor in the team's decision to sign him to a six-year, $59 million contract on Oct. 29.
Fitzpatrick has slumped badly since, and the Bills have mirrored his performance. Since signing his extension, the Amish Rifle has turned into the Amish Pellet Gun, throwing just four touchdowns against eight interceptions in four games. His quarterback rating has been lower than 52 in each of the last three games, a stretch in which the Bills have been outscored 106-26.
"It weighs on me that I don't play well," Fitzpatrick said in Friday's edition of The Buffalo News. "I don't think it has anything to do with if I was a rookie or if I was in my first year here with the Bills or since I've signed the contract, you don't like to go out and not perform and not win. That stuff weighs on you a little bit. You want to do well, you want to go out there and have fun when you're playing and we haven't done that the last few weeks. That's something we're looking to correct."
Fitzpatrick has dealt with protection issues and a wide receiving unit that's been hit hard by injuries. But that doesn't explain all of the struggles of Fitzpatrick, who doesn't look nearly as sharp or decisive as he did earlier in the season.
"Not as good as he had played earlier in the year," said Bills coach Chan Gailey, evaluating Fitzpatrick's recent performance. "He's had some tough situations but all of those become excuses but he wasn't as consistent as he was earlier in the season. I think there's some reasons. I don't think he's playing poor (but) I think the production is poor."
The 2012 draft class includes several promising quarterback prospects, and you have to wonder if the Bills have buyer's remorse given Fitzpatrick's regression. ProFootballTalk.com reported last week that Buffalo can walk away from its QB after the season and owe only $10 million of the contract terms. It's an unlikely scenario, but one that Fitzpatrick should try hard to remove from the front office's thought process.