As Andre Hal erupted in celebration, Ryan Fitzpatrick sunk into his shoulder pads.
Fitzpatrick was just intercepted to seal the Houston Texans 24-17 win over the New York Jets at NRG Stadium, a game he admitted this week meant more to him than the others this season.
This wasn’t the finish he’d hoped for.
“It was tough,” he said after the game. “It’s always tough to lose, no matter what. But it probably added a little bit to it. Not being able to come back and having two opportunities at the end and not being able to lead the team to at least tie the game, yeah, it makes it tough.”
The Texans signed Fitzpatrick last offseason to be their opening day starter, and got solid return on their investment. Fitzpatrick helped them to a 9-7 record in their first year with head coach Bill O’Brien. Posted a 95.3 quarterback rating, a career high. A 6-6 record as a starter, only the second time in his career that he’d gone .500 or better over a full season.
But, in what was perceived as a “good to great” move for a new regime, they shipped him to New York for a throwaway draft pick to clear the deck for a Brian Hoyer-Ryan Mallett quarterback competition.
Heading into this week, he wanted to prove his worth.
But instead of leading a validating comeback in the game’s final minutes, he threw two interceptions in as many drives. A few T.J. Yates kneel downs later, the game was over.
“I didn’t play well,” he said.
“There’s a lot of throws I needed to make that I didn’t make, and obviously having two chances there at the end and not coming up with a touchdown on one of those drives hurts.”
Eddie Pleasant had the first interception.
“He just kinda undercut the route,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Good play by Eddie Pleasant. Wish I would’ve somehow been able to make a throw around him, a better throw.”
Then came Hal’s.
“I thought the safety was deep enough where I’d be able to throw a slant in there,” Fitzpatrick said. “Brian Cushing ran out, he was covering the back and sprinted out to the right, so I had to wait for him to clear. Unfortunately that took more time than I wanted to and the safety was able to get in there.”
The loss was the Jets (5-5) fourth in five games and another against an AFC playoff contender. Their division rival Buffalo Bills own the conference’s second wild card spot. The Texans are a half game behind. Both own tie breakers over New York.
After the game, Jets head coach Todd Bowles wouldn’t commit to Fitzpatrick as their starter for next week’s game against the Miami Dolphins. Fitzpatrick finished with 216 yards on 19 of 39 passing. He’s completed only 46.5 percent of his passes in his last two games.
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