Six Points: For Fitzpatrick and Marshall, winning battle of NY has bigger implications

BY Mike Garafolo • December 7, 2015

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brandon Marshall looked up to the video boards on the facing of the second deck at MetLife stadium and saw Ryan Fitzpatrick's stats: 36-for-50 for 390 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Marshall peeked next to him and saw Fitzpatrick, who was thinking about attempt No. 51, a pass that would come after Giants kicker Josh Brown presumably made the 48-yard field goal he was about to line up. That would give the Jets the ball back with a chance to win.

Marshall asked Fitzpatrick if he should hold his praise. Fitzpatrick told him to keep it to himself until their day was done.

"I was going to tell him how proud I am of him for leading us, not only today but this whole season," Marshall told reporters after the Jets' 23-20 win. "It got to the point where they're about to kick the field goal and I told him they're going to miss it. I said, 'Hey, I've been in the league 10 years and haven't made the playoffs, you 11 (years). We've bounced around from team to team, the football gods are hearing us right now. He's going to miss this kick.'

"And he did."

Brown's franchise record of 29 straight field goals made ended when he yanked the kick outside of the left upright in the south end zone. The Jets, who trailed by 10 points with 8:50 to play in the game and needed to stop the Giants on a fourth-and-2 attempt from the 4-yard line, had completed the comeback and won this game on a 31-yard field goal by Randy Bullock on the first drive of overtime.

Marshall and Fitzpatrick didn't move at first. As Marshall put it, they just sat there for a beat as their teammates ran on the field. They hugged and enjoyed the moment together.

"It put me in this weird position. It was really awkward where I was like laying on top of him," Marshall said. "So I tried to maneuver myself into a better position that probably wasn't going to be on the bloopers or whatever."

This win meant so much to the Jets (7-5).

Firstly, and most importantly, it kept them tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs for a wild-card spot. It also proved they could win a game by staying "poised" -- that was their buzz word this week -- after losing four games by a touchdown or less this season.

Plus, this win ended a five-game losing streak against their local rivals, marking the first win for the Jets over the Giants since 1993. As much as they pretended that didn't matter in the week leading up to the game, trust those of us who live around here and watch them battle for market share -- it matters that they're battling for a playoff spot while the Giants are facing serious turmoil one week after they botched a chance to take control of the NFC East with a bad loss to the Washington Redskins.

But think of what it means for Marshall and Fitzpatrick.

One is a formerly beleaguered wide receiver who has been traded three times, in large part because of locker-room chemistry issues.

The other is a former seventh-round pick who has relied upon smarts more than athleticism (did you hear Fitzpatrick went to Harvard?), is now with sixth NFL franchise and had been on only one team with a winning record in his first 10 seasons.

Fitzpatrick proved his value for a contending team on Sunday, though, when he completed seven of 10 passes to set up a field goal that cut the Giants' lead to 20-13 then led a 10-play, 71-yard touchdown drive he capped with a nine-yard fade into the end zone for a leaping Marshall. Fitzpatrick set up the scoring play with a 15-yard scramble on fourth-and-6 from the Giants' 36. It was a play he made when he saw the Giants' defenders in man coverage turn their backs to him.

"It wasn't just fourth quarter (Fitzpatrick remained poised), it was all game. This guy is a stud," Marshall said. "Even when we were sputtering, he kept his composure. That's the type of guy you want leading you. We're just thankful to have him."

Fitzpatrick is thankful for this situation, which came about when former Texans exec Mike Maccagnan got the Jets GM job and brought Fitzpatrick with him. IK Enemkpali's punch that broke Geno Smith's jaw then ended the quarterback competition in favor of Fitzpatrick, and there's no question this team is better off with the veteran under center.

"He threw it to the perfect spot," Giants corner Prince Amukamara said of the game-tying touchdown, "and Marshall is a big guy, he boxed me out."

Said Marshall of his reaction after Brown's miss in overtime: "I had tears in my eyes, there were three or four coaches, three or four players (crying), and that's what it's about, that's why we play the game. We want to do it together and to fight like that, I know that's what I enjoy about this game, especially now -- coming into this locker room after a win, that raw emotion. You can't pay for that."

Fitzpatrick felt like a kid, too.

After hugging Marshall and shaking hands with the Giants' players and coaches, he shared an aggressive embrace with Jets coach Todd Bowles and another one with a member of the Jets' media-relations staff. He was about to leave the field via the sideline tunnel when he looked to the end zone and saw a row of Jets fans yelling for him to come their way. He ran over and high-fived them as he ran down the line of fans and then into the tunnel to the locker room.

The calendar reads December, yet Fitzpatrick will be preparing for games that will decide playoff positioning, not for matchups to determine draft slotting.

"Other than Christmas, December is never really a fun time for me," he said. "This is a good one and we'll definitely enjoy this one."

SAFETY MEASURES ON THE WAY

"Concussion" will be in theaters soon, along with it another round of criticism about how slow the NFL was to react to the dangers of repetitive head trauma and debate about whether the league concealed the truth.

There's no question the league could have done more in the past. The issue facing America's most popular sport in the present and future, though, is making the game safer without making it slower or less exciting. There is no doubt the league is trying.

In March 2013, the NFL, GE and Under Armour announced their "Head Health Challenge," which would provide funding for innovations to understand and prevent concussions. The first round of the challenge focused on the diagnosis and treatment of injuries. The second round was aimed toward technology that would make the game safer.

Round two winners were announced last week, and on Thursday the technology was on display at NFL headquarters in Manhattan. The three winning products -- an under-layer for turf field to soften impact, a tether to attach to helmets and shoulder pads to prevent the head from snapping backward and slamming into the ground and a helmet designed to absorb more of the impact of a hit and keep the head and neck in line -- are expected to be ready for commercialization soon, meaning a safer game from youth football through the NFL is close.

"Is this exciting? Yeah, these things are going to affect football at all levels and other sports, too," NFL senior vice president of health and safety Jeff Miller told FOX Sports last week as the three winners were presenting their products. "You talk about better fields, new technologies being developed by the Army, which may help our military, and technology in football helmets that may be adapted to a bicycle or lacrosse helmet.

"It's happening. This stuff is here. And there's going to be more after this."

A quick overview of the three products that won:

--The tether, developed by the U.S. Army Research Lab, would attach from a harness or the shoulder pads to the helmet. It slides along a piece that would be retrofit to existing helmets and would allow the head to move freely except when there's a quick, jerking motion backward. It's a mechanism similar to that of a seatbelt in a car, and the hope is it would keep the head from sinking into the helmet and condensing the padding while also limiting the contact with the ground when a player falls backward. The thought is, with a tether, St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum wouldn't have suffered a concussion when his head hit the turf in Baltimore last month. This product is expected to hit the market in 12 to 18 months, with an introduction to youth football as the focus.

--Viconic Sporting's under-layer for artificial turf reduces the impact of a falling object while remaining firm enough to provide solid footing during the normal course of play. The technology is already in use by the U.S. military to manage the impact of IEDs that explode underneath vehicles. A demonstration conducted by Viconic for FOX Sports showed an object that fell from three feet off the ground had a head injury criterion (HIC) of 1,432 on normal turf but just 274 on turf with Viconic's under-layer. The product should hit the market next year.

--Vicis, a University of Washington startup, developed a helmet that "mitigates the forces likely to cause a concussion." A video featuring an overlay of the "Alpha 2" vs. Riddell's "Speedflex," which is considered the safest helmet currently on the market, showed Vicis' model kept the head and neck of the dummy head taking the hit in a more vertical position, rather than the head snapping back.

"The hope is that some of these technologies out here will disrupt what currently exists in the field," Miller said. "If they can build a better mouse trap, the market will adopt that and and that's a good thing."

BLOCK OF THE YEAR

Eagles left tackle Jason Peters has battled quadriceps and back injuries this season and has two Achilles tears in recent years. Yet, one play late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's upset of the New England Patriots -- a key third-and-11 conversion -- proved he's still one of the most athletic linemen in the league.

After protecting to his inside, Peters looked outside and saw Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich bearing down on Sam Bradford. Ninkovich was three yards behind Peters and nearly parallel to Peters as the (listed) 328-pounder pivoted. Peters darted toward Ninkovich and dived at him, just getting enough of Ninkovich to keep him from sacking Bradford, who took the extra beat to hit Riley Cooper for 14 yards and a first down.

The Eagles still wound up giving New England a chance to tie the game when Kenjon Barner fumbled with just over a minute to play (uh, how about using DeMarco Murray in that spot?). But Peters' block and the conversion wound up knocking about 90 seconds off the clock, thus limiting Tom Brady's shot at leading a touchdown drive.

Many focused on the dart Bradford threw to Cooper, and rightly so. But Peters' incredible athleticism (not to mention the missed false start on the other side of the line) made the play happen. It wasn't a pancake, but it was probably the block of the year and kept the Eagles alive.

HUGE WIN FOR REX, BILLS

Rex Ryan knows exactly what Sunday's win over the Houston Texans meant for the Buffalo Bills,

"Man, we needed that," Ryan said to open his press conference, adding later: "At least we're still at it, we're still competing for it. I think, if we would've dropped this one, it wouldn't have looked real good."

Word around the league last week was Bills ownership was none too pleased with the team's recent play. There was even some talk of whether Ryan might be in danger of being the latest coach to be one-and-done with his new team. That seems like a bit of a stretch, but it's clear the Bills' new regime had visions of competing immediately, especially given the trade for LeSean McCoy, the money doled out to key defensive players and 2-1 start to the season.

Maybe Ryan wouldn't have been in danger of losing his job if the Bills had lost to Houston, but there would've been chatter. The team's first home game in nearly a month helped matters. Now, it's back on the road for McCoy's grudge match in Philly followed by another road game at Washington. Those are two tough games and the win over Houston only provided a little margin for error.

NO HELP FOR ODELL

The Giants deserve all of the praise for drafting Odell Beckham Jr. when he's out there making ridiculous one-handed and diving catches. But at some point, the question becomes whether they've done enough to add pieces around him.

On Sunday, Beckham was targeted 11 times. It was the ninth time this year a Giants player has been targeted 10-or-more times in a game. All nine times, it's been Beckham. Julio Jones leads has led the Atlanta Falcons in targets seven times this season. Jarvis Landry owns the Miami Dolphins' top-six totals.

The Giants are relying on Beckham far too often, and former second-round pick Rueben Randle's stopping on a route on the failed fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter that could've put the game out of reach showed why he hasn't deserved more targets.

But don't just blame Randle, Eli Manning or anybody on the field. Question the front office, which knew Victor Cruz was coming off a torn patellar tendon and therefore couldn't be relied upon.

All that said, credit Beckham for continuing to be a sensational player. His 72-yard touchdown was impressive, as was his hurdling celebration (Lolo Jones tweeted Beckham's form was better than hers) and his ability to shake off a delay-of-game penalty for kicking the ball after an incompletion in overtime. Beckham made a catch on the next play to convert a fourth down.

"If I would've thrown it back ... I really don't see the difference. If you kick the ball back, it's not like I'm screaming F-bombs and kicking the ball back," said Beckham, a soccer fan and former player. "You kick it back to the huddle and we go to the fourth-and-2 play. I really don't think it's a penalty, but it's not my job to make calls."

Both officials near Beckham's boot thought twice about making a potentially game-deciding call in that spot but concurred it was a penalty.

COWBOYS ARE ALIVE -- BARELY

The Giants' loss on Sunday meant the 3-8 Dallas Cowboys can pull within a game of first place with a win over Washington on Monday night.

That's sad and funny at the same time, but it's also misleading as it pertains to the Cowboys' chances of actually crawling back into contention. Even with a win in Washington, they'll face a tough slate coming up, starting with a trip to Green Bay on a short week, a home game against the Jets, a road game in Buffalo and then a season-ending rematch with the Redskins.

Cowboys on life support will be a nice storyline to make Monday's game more interesting. Just don't expect them to still be in the hunt when they line up against Washington again.



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