The Buffalo Bills roared out to a hot start in 2011, opening the season 5-2 before losing eight of their final nine games to finish 6-10 and in fourth place in the AFC East.
A collapse like that is bound to lead to a lot of soul-searching and self-evaluation. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick discussed how last year's disappointing finish is motivating the team with NFL Network's "NFL AM" crew Wednesday.
Harrison: Power Rankings
What is the NFL pecking order entering Week 1 of the 2012 campaign? Elliot Harrison ranks every team, from 1 to 32. More ...
"Just looking back at last year and some of the things that happened and being able to evaluate why we fell off at the end of the year, I think we made a lot of progress in evaluating that this offseason," Fitzpatrick said. "Again, with some of the guys we added, especially defensively, we feel like we're going to have a good chance."
Fitzpatrick experienced a significant drop in his own performance in the second half of the 2011 season. After signing a six-year, $59 million contract extension in late October, Fitzpatrick's completion percentage fell from over 66 percent to 59 percent, his interceptions spiked (seven in the first six games, 16 the rest of the way) and his passer rating went from 93.1 in the first six weeks to 71.3 over the final 10 games.
Part of the drop-off in performance has been attributed to Fitzpatrick, a former seventh-round pick out of Harvard, getting sloppy with his mechanics, which may or may not have been exacerbated by an undisclosed rib injury.
Either way, the Bills brought in David Lee to replace George Cortez as the quarterbacks coach and Fitzpatrick has noticed a change.
"Yeah, I have, especially with the mechanics," Fitzpatrick said of working with Lee. "We spent a lot of time this offseason looking back at last year and really there was an issue towards the end of the year, they (his mechanics) really fell off. For him (Lee) to come in to show me some proof and some evidence of what I was doing wrong, and how I can do it better, he's helped me out a lot.
"We'll see if it carries over to the games. I thought preseason went well in terms of fundamentals and mechanics and I think we're on the right track."