Buffalo Bills Film Review: What Went Wrong on Ryan Fitzpatrick's Interceptions?

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Buffalo Bills Film Review: What Went Wrong on Ryan Fitzpatrick's Interceptions?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's 66.5 passer rating from the Buffalo Bills' 48-28 loss to the Jets really doesn't do his day justice.

But this experience doesn't have to be all bad for the Amish Rifle. Going forward, Fitzpatrick can learn a few valuable lessons from his tough day.

The first is to come off his first read. The second is to lead his receiver into open space and throw a ball that only he can catch. The third is to do work on his coverage recognition.

Let's go through his interceptions one-by-one to see what went down each time he threw it to the wrong color jersey:

 

First interception: First quarter, 9:56, 2nd-and-13, Jets 47-yard line

The Bills had just nabbed their only interception of the game off Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Now, on offense, they were in a spread set and had wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones stacked on top of each other to the left. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was matched up on Johnson, while cornerback Kyle Wilson was manned up on Jones.

The play began to unfold. Not once did Fitzpatrick even make a feeble attempt to look away from Johnson, but rather stared his receiver down the whole way. That's not exactly a brilliant idea against the best cornerback in the NFL, who promptly jumped the route...

...and made the pick.

There are two things to note here, other than Fitzpatrick failing to look at another receiver.

The first is that while the pressure was closing in, it was not a major threat: The only defender nearby was linebacker Bryan Thomas, and he was being double-teamed by left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Andy Levitre.

Secondly, as we see in the above still, if Fitzpatrick had waited just a split second longer, he would have seen Donald Jones getting open across the middle of the field. The window would have been tight, but I like my chances throwing to Jones over the middle against Kyle Wilson in a window between linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris more than my chances throwing against Revis.

CBS analyst Rich Gannon commented on the play during CBS' broadcast:

I'm really surprised that Ryan Fitzpatrick throws this ball. It's so late, and we always talk about 'If you wait, you're late,' and the cardinal rule is you can't be late on an out-breaking route. You see Revis there, he's just sitting and waiting on Stevie Johnson. See how long it takes Stevie, he's late out of his break and one of the things that Ryan Fitzpatrick talked about last year is throws to his left. Leaving the ball inside is something he's worked on this offseason.

Perhaps he should work on getting off his first read, too.

 

Second interception: First quarter, 2:30, 2nd-and-10, Bills 47-yard line

Fitzpatrick was guilty of locking onto his first read once again, but this time, the pick was the result of a poorly thrown football.

Fitzpatrick was lined up in the shotgun in a spread set. The defense showed man coverage pre-snap with Bell up top as the single-high safety. 

The coverage was solid across the board, but there was a chance for a completion to wide receiver David Nelson. Or, at least, there would have been, if Fitzpatrick had put the ball in a spot where only his receiver could get it.

Fitzpatrick cocked back as Nelson entered his break and released just as he came out of the break.

Because of the off-target throw, Nelson had to turn around in stride a little bit after his break. The poor ball placement allowed Kyle Wilson to use his elite closing speed to catch up and make the pick.

Once again, Fitzpatrick didn't go through his reads, but that's not the reason why the ball was picked off. In the end, it just was not an accurate throw. He had to lead his receiver into it, instead of forcing him to turn around.

Gannon echoed this sentiment on the call:

[The Bills] wanted to work inside, as well [to] stay away from Revis and Cromartie. They're working inside on Kyle Wilson [but it's] a back shoulder throw. Not good enough from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

One other thing to note here: Linebacker Calvin Pace put the pressure on just before Fitzpatrick released, and the pressure was coming from Fitzpatrick's right side. That may have had a little to do with the poor placement on the throw; perhaps he was aiming the pass around the defensive end, but the hit didn't come until after he released the ball, which makes his decision to go around Pace a curious one.

 

Third interception: Third quarter, 14:10, 1st-and-10, Bills 36-yard line

Call this the mixed bag. His third interception could be attributed to one or a combination of three things: It was a bad throw, Fitzpatrick never came off his first option and/or he didn't recognize the coverage.

The concept here was to get David Nelson open on an out route to the left sideline by having wide receiver Donald Jones run a go route to clear the left side coverage.

This concept would work beautifully against man-to-man coverage, especially since (as usual) Kyle Wilson had left a pretty significant cushion between himself and his man.

Only one problem: It wasn't man coverage; it was zone. Cromartie passed Jones off to the deep safety, Yeremiah Bell, and Cromartie took the underneath zone.

At this point, it still had a man coverage look, but Cromartie clearly had his eyes on the quarterback because once again, Fitzpatrick didn't come off his first read. Add to that the faulty coverage recognition, and that's a perfect recipe for a pick-six, especially on an out route.

Interestingly enough, if Fitzpatrick had simply recognized the coverage, he may have had an opportunity to hit Jones down the sideline.

Unfortunately for the Bills, that never happened. Rich Gannon let us know what happened.

Poor decisions have been killing Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is a day he might love to forget. What happens is, he gets fooled here. He thinks it's man-to-man coverage, he doesn't realize Antonio Cromartie is sitting on the outside looking back in. He never feels the corner outside. He just locks onto the receiver. You've got to be able to see out in front of throws.

In your opinion, which pick was a worse play by Ryan Fitzpatrick?

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Fitzpatrick could have helped himself here, though, by simply coming off his first read. That would have given him more time to recognize the coverage as he watched it develop.

He could also have sent a receiver in motion. That would have exposed the zone coverage on the back end. If he sent a receiver in motion, and the defensive backs followed him across the set, he would have known it was man; if the defensive back didn't follow him, he would have known it was zone.

Going forward, Fitzpatrick can learn from his mistakes on this day. The lack of accuracy on the second interception is a cause for concern, and the poor coverage recognition is a concern on the third one, but if he can get off his first read more consistently, he can make up for both of those problems.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand. 

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