Back in the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 championship season, coach Sean Payton repeatedly told his players that if they wanted to go somewhere they’d never been before, they’d have to do things they never did before.
That philosophy helped the Saints win the first Super Bowl in franchise history, and it looked like some quarterbacks around the league were borrowing that motto recently. Week 3 of the NFL season was a time for quarterbacks to stop some unpleasant streaks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick helped the undefeated Buffalo Bills snap a 15-game losing streak against the New England Patriots. That streak dated back to 2003. Eli Manning had beaten the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in his career, but not recently. That changed Sunday when Manning and the New York Giants broke a six-game losing streak against their division rivals.
Speaking of ending bad streaks against division rivals, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman helped the Bucs break a five-game skid, dating back to 2008 when Jon Gruden was still coaching the team, against the Atlanta Falcons. Finally, Carolina rookie Cam Newton got his first NFL victory as the Panthers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With the streaks off their backs, all four quarterbacks let out sighs of relief. The role reversals showed that things might be changing for the better for the Bills, Giants, Buccaneers and Panthers.
“It’s huge," Freeman said. “It’s about time one went our way. They’ve been really close games. Since I’ve been here, they’ve won the first four [plus one before Freeman arrived], and they’ve all been close. I can think back to my rookie year. We went in to Atlanta, and had the lead down to the very end of the game. And [Chris] Redman [playing for an injured Matt Ryan] came in and hit it on a fourth down. They’re a great divisional opponent. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, offense and defense. They’re a good team. We’ll get to see them again. I’m looking forward to that."
Fitzpatrick was the only one of the four streak-busting quarterbacks to have a truly huge day. In a game similar to what he did against Oakland the week before, Fitzpatrick rallied the Bills after they fell behind 21-0 in the third quarter. He threw for 369 yards and helped set up Rian Lindell’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
Manning didn’t have a big yardage total (254), but he did throw for four touchdown passes against Philadelphia’s highly paid and highly hyped secondary. Freeman only threw for 180 yards and was intercepted twice, but he scored the first rushing touchdown of his career and got plenty of help from a defense that probably played its best game since coach Raheem Morris took over in 2009. Newton threw for a career-low 158 yards (he threw for more than 400 in each of his first two starts), but he threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Olsen with four minutes and 20 seconds remaining on a day when heavy rain made throwing the ball difficult.
Newton won’t have to face the Jaguars again this season, unless Carolina and Jacksonville somehow end up meeting in the Super Bowl. But Fitzpatrick will have to face the Bills again, Manning will play the Eagles later and Freeman and the Bucs will have to go up to the Georgia Dome.
They won’t be carrying the burden of those ugly streaks and that may help them get to more places they’ve never been before.