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FITZ MAGIC
BEN REITER
October 03, 2011
The Bills are a shocking 3--0—take that, Pats!—thanks to a Harvard-bred quarterback and a spirit of togetherness that reflects their city
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October 03, 2011

Fitz Magic

The Bills are a shocking 3--0—take that, Pats!—thanks to a Harvard-bred quarterback and a spirit of togetherness that reflects their city

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Fitzpatrick, who threw for 369 yards, second highest in his career, didn't beat the Patriots by himself. He had help from Jackson, the undrafted back from Division III Coe College, whose late 38-yard catch-and-run set up Rian Lindell's winning field goal, and from a defense that stiffened in the second half. To counter Brady's fearlessness in throwing over the middle, Buffalo defenders focused on keeping their hands up and otherwise blocking the passing lanes. Of their several deflections, one produced Drayton Florence's 27-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown return.

But there was no mistaking the primary source of the comeback. "The confidence continues to get higher," said Fitzpatrick in a jubilant locker room. "Who knows where we can go?"

Sunday afternoon was melting into early evening, and Fitzpatrick stood among his guests in his driveway, the long paper banners the towheads had made for him—RYAN IS AWESOME!—fluttering on the lawn. He admired photos of babies thrust at him on iPhones. He chided Markus, the prison guard, for overgrooming his beard, which he had vowed to let grow until season's end in solidarity with Fitzpatrick. ("I work in a respected profession!" Markus protested.) A little boy named Jack ran up to Fitzpatrick and asked him to spin him by his arms. "Last time he swung me around when I had to go pee, and he made me pee my pants," Jack explained. "There will be no spinning today," said Fitzpatrick, mock-sternly.

As he watched the genial chaos and reflected on the day, Fitzpatrick smiled the smile of a man who has found his home. Understated and unflappable, he has emerged as a hero in a city starved for one, a hero who, down to his cold-weather beard, shares Buffalo's ethos. Fitzpatrick and the Bills are reportedly discussing a long-term extension, which would ensure many more Crock-Pot Sundays. "I get to play with my buddies, work our way up together, and then I get to come home and be with my family and friends," he says. "It's just fun, isn't it?"

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