Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick – who started 12 games for Cincinnati in 2008 – jokes that pro football might be the only profession where a Harvard degree is not considered a good thing.
“When you walk into a job interview almost anywhere else and announce that you are a Harvard graduate, it pretty much has some weight,” Fitzpatrick told The Sports Xchange last May. “But when you walk into the NFL and say, ‘Harvard,’ well. . . ”
That helps explain why Fitzpatrick lasted until the 250th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft – five picks from being “Mr. Irrelevant.” But Ryan’s smarts are a big reason why he’ll bring the Bills to town on Sunday with a 3-0 record and the number-one scoring offense in the NFL.
“Football isn’t all about strength and physical attributes – it’s a mental game,” said Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko. “Since Fitz went to Harvard, you know that he has the mental game unlocked. We’ve got our hands full this week, but that’s what it’s all about.”
Because of Fitzpatrick’s Ivy League degree – he was an economics major in case you’re interested – Ryan is assumed to be smart but not necessarily athletic.
The Bengals say that is not the case.
“He’s making a lot of great decisions but he’s throwing it in there too – even to spots where you don’t think he could fit a ball in,” said Bengals cornerback Kelly Jennings.
“That football team believes in him,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. “He’s done a nice job of delivering the ball, and when it’s not there, he’ll take off and run to extend the drive.”
“He was running the scout team here (in 2007) and I said, ‘Dang, who is this guy?’” said Peko. “He can run the ball, he can throw the ball, and he just fits in perfectly with the Bills scheme.”
Buffalo’s offensive scheme was the subject of an illuminating story by Reed Albergotti in the Wall St. Journal on Tuesday titled “Buffalo’s Secret: A Stampede.” It describes how the Bills stack their wide receivers in pairs at the line of scrimmage instead of spreading them out in a straight line – a strategy that breeds confusion in the secondary.
“It means that you have to try to communicate while still trying to play fast which is a tough thing to do,” said Jennings. “They know that defenses have to think and if one guy is off, you open yourself up to a big play.”
While Fitzpatrick is tied for second in the NFL in touchdown passes with 9, he has also thrown 3 INTs. The Bengals secondary does not have an interception this year – including the preseason – and changing that stat could be a key on Sunday.
“The ball is going to be in the air and we have to make some plays on the football,” said Coach Lewis.
Buffalo is trying to open a season 4-0 for the 9th time in team history and trying to beat Cincinnati for the 11th straight time dating back to the 1988 AFC Championship game.
“All good things must come to an end,” said Jennings. “That’s our job this week.”
* * * * *
I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 on ESPN 1530-AM. Our guests will include the Voice of the Buffalo Bills John Murphy and Bills center/Elder grad Eric Wood.
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.
Posted in Heard It From Hoard | 2 Comments »