No matter what you feel about Ryan Fitzpatrick as a quarterback, there's no denying that he did something significant last Sunday. In the interest of history, I will pay homage to his big day by ranking his franchise-record six touchdowns in order of some poorly defined metric. Our children's children will thank us for preserving Sixpatrick's historic performance.
6. 1st Q, 7:34 - Ryan Griffin 8 Yd. pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick
The first play to show up on the list is Fitzpatrick's first touchdown of the game.
Second-year tight end Ryan Griffin starts out wide and is motioned into an offset-left fullback position. Circled in blue is the Titans' DB who follows him. This suggests that they're in man coverage, but we'll find out that the Titans are simply disguising their zone by having a man shadow the moving tight end. Regardless of coverage, the Titans get caught sleeping on Griffin and allow this...
Griffin is spotted immediately by Fitzpatrick, and Griffin has all kinds of room to run for the game's first score. The DB who followed Griffin in the first screen shot isn't anywhere near him. With all the Titans looking at Fitzpatrick, it's pretty clear that they're in zone coverage, specifically a zone-blitz, with no one covering the flat that Griffin occupies. It was a nice read by Fitzpatrick to immediately notice the open man (a tight end!) and get the ball out quickly.
5. 3rd Q, 4:40 - DeAndre Hopkins 34 Yd. pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick
DeAndre Hopkins' second touchdown comes in at #5 on our poorly-defined metric countdown.
Sure, yeah, Ryan Fitzpatrick makes a swell throw to hit his guy in stride, but the majority of credit has to go to Hopkins for making this catch with the defender's hands all over the ball. There might not be a stronger set of phalanges in the entire NFL right now than those attached to Hopkins' hands.
Our old pal Rivers McCown talked about Hopkins and the "my-ball" mentality that NFL scouts look for. Hopkins has proven time and again that he won't be out-fought for a ball in the air.
4. 1st Q, 4:50 - Arian Foster 7 Yd. pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick
The Texans are in the red zone again and looking for their second score of the afternoon. Bill O'Brien's play-calling variety shines a bit here, as his offensive formation and personnel is completely different than what we saw earlier in this spot.
Arian Foster will run his route out of the backfield with a Titans LB (in blue) guarding him in man coverage. To Foster's left, Andre Johnson will run a post to clear out plenty of room for the underneath route.
Foster creates separation as well as any running back (and many wide receivers) in the NFL by running a crisp route, breaking quickly to the left and having his hands ready for the on-time pass. Too easy.
Foster then Namastes and takes the TD ball over to a kid in the stands. He even swatted away an adult's hands to make sure the kid got it. You're alright, Foster.
3. 4th Q, 3:56 - J.J. Watt 1 Yd, pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick
We reach the halfway point of our Fitzpatrick TD Countdown as we fast-forward to the 4th quarter.
It's redundant to drop some adjectives about J.J. Watt. The thesaurus is empty. We are all witness.
He starts off as the fullback and motions out next to Ryan Griffin, who had already motioned out from his TE spot. The play turns out to be a two-man route, with Griffin running a corner route and Watt running a quick out.
To the Titans' credit, Watt is actually covered pretty well. But as proof to the Watt-haters (and there are haters out there) that this isn't some gimmick, Watt comes down with another contested TD catch.
It all makes sense, of course. As a defensive end, Watt has otherworldly short-area quickness and hand-eye coordination. There's no reason those skills can't translate into running routes and catching passes. His 6'7'' frame and huge wingspan puts him on Rob Gronkowski-levels of athleticism. Expect the touchdowns to continue.
2. 4th Q, 11:05 - Andre Johnson 4 Yd. pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick
We stay in the 4th as we see a sight more rare than a Texans TE pass target: Andre Johnson catching a touchdown.
I love the play design here. Arian Foster motions out to the left, almost behind the three receivers, and runs an out to the end zone similar to his touchdown that we looked at earlier. Andre (circled) runs a fade route against man coverage.
Fitzpatrick, to his merit or demerit, has eyes for Andre and only Andre on this play; Fitzpatrick holds onto the ball long enough for Andre to break open. The pass protection was outstanding, with C.J. Fiedorowicz (far right) staying in to block next to Derek Newton.
Fitzpatrick doesn't pull the trigger on the fade route, so Andre stays active, working towards the corner of the end zone, hand-fighting with the DB before finding enough room for the cannon shot Fitzpatrick shoots in his direction.
The way Fitz held onto the ball, staring down Andre, makes me think he really wanted to give the guy a touchdown, especially since Andre had previously coughed up a fumble that was recovered for a Tennessee touchdown.
Either way, it was vintage Andre and it was awesome to see.
1. 2nd Q, :38 - DeAndre Hopkins 58 Yd. pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick
Finally, we get to Fitzpatrick's most impressive touchdown of the day. With less than a minute left in the half, he'd hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 58-yard catch-and-run.
The CBS broadcast did a nice job illustrating Hopkins' and Damaris Johnson's route combination, so I went in and added the Titans' zone. They appear to be in Cover 4, with a DB each covering a quarter of the defensive backfield. It's supposed to prevent deep plays, but the intertwining routes put too much pressure on the safeties and Fitzpatrick would find his man.
With the ball in the air (circled in yellow), the deepest middle safety (blue) breaks towards Damaris Johnson. Meanwhile, Hopkins is breaking wide open down the middle of the field, leaving his closest defender well behind. By the time the circled defender realizes his mistake, Hopkins has him thoroughly beat.
Fitzpatrick hits Hopkins perfectly, giving fans something concrete to cheer about after watching Matt Schaub underthrow deep routes for years. It put the Texans up 24-0 before the half, effectively ending the game for the Texans.
That's it for me. Do you agree with my semi-arbitrary rankings? What are yours? Discuss. Happy Wednesday.
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