As the Kansas City Chiefs were celebrating their fourth straight victory to start the Andy Reid era, their next opponent was putting a beating on the New York Jets.
The Tennessee Titans were cruising in the third quarter with a 24-6 lead and it looked like the Chiefs would have a tall task on their hands next Sunday. Jake Locker was playing the best football of his career, giving the Chiefs defense yet another top level quarterback to prepare for.
Then third-year quarterback was sandwiched by two Jets defenders and fell awkwardly to the ground. He didn’t get up.
Locker, who had already tossed three touchdowns, needed to be carted off with a hip injury. The Titans signal caller spent the night in the hospital, and even though they aren’t sure how long he’ll be out, it’s expected to be at least a few weeks.
Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the only other quarterback on the roster, took over Sunday and would start if Locker’s hip injury ends up keeping him out long term. In his eight years in the league, Fitzpatrick has played in 74 games, including all 32 the last two seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
Playing with the game clearly in hand, Fitzpatrick completed three of eight passes for 108 yards and a 77-yard touchdown to Nate Washington. By his own admission, the veteran simply didn’t want to “screw it up” during his time Sunday.
But that is out the window now for Fitzpatrick.
“If I end up being the guy next week, that’s no longer the mentality,” he told reporters.
Fitzpatrick (along with nearly every other quarterback facing the Chiefs) beat Kansas City last season by completing 10 of 19 for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also was able to pick up 34 yards on the ground with just four carries.
The rest of the season didn’t go quite as well for Fitzpatrick or the Bills as they finished 6-10 and he was no longer welcome in Buffalo. Instead, he came to Tennessee so he could help Locker improve his game, but could now have to be the guy.
“For me now, if he’s not in there then this is why they brought me here,” Fitzpatrick said. “No longer to tutor Jake and help him along but to help win football games for this team.”
If he plans on winning Sunday, he’ll have to do it against a Chiefs defense that has knocked around Tony Romo, Michael Vick and Eli Manning. Through four games, only two defenses have limited teams to less yards in the air.