By Tim Graham
Because fourth-quarter comebacks are often referenced but aren't official NFL stats, researcher Scott Kacsmar has painstakingly culled game reports to compile what's considered a comprehensive database back to 1981.
Kacsmar's work can be found at Pro-Football-Reference.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com, where I spotted Fitzpatrick's comeback record in an article about why Cam Newton is a fraud.
Fitzpatrick's career record in fourth-quarter comeback situations is 5-20 for a .200 win percentage. One of those losses was in Week Seven to the Tennessee Titans. With 63 seconds and two timeouts left, the Bills needed a field goal to win. Fitzpatrick moved the ball from the Bills' 20-yard line to their 28.
His record with game-winning opportunities in the fourth quarter or overtime is 7-21-1 for a .259 win percentage. The tie came in a 2008 draw when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Those winning percentages rank ninth from the bottom in both categories. The only quarterbacks with worse percentages are Newton, Bill Kenney, Chris Weinke, Seneca Wallace, Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Jeff George and Chad Henne.
For the record, Kacsmar defines a fourth-quarter comeback opportunity as a possession while trailing by eight points or fewer, a one-possession game.
A fourth-quarter/overtime game-winning drive is when the score is tied in addition to those comeback opportunities from a one-score deficit.
"Fitzpatrick is interesting because he led what was the biggest comeback in Harvard history," Kacsmar said, referring to a 21-point rally to beat Dartmouth, "and his NFL debut was one of the more improbable comeback wins you will see against the Texans in 2005. Then last season he led big comebacks in consecutive weeks against Oakland and New England.
"But once you get past those highlights, he has a lot of failed attempts."
Kacsmar's data shows Fitzpatrick has had 18 failed comebacks since 2008. In Fitzpatrick's 20 career losses in possible comeback situations, he has led the offense to 35 points on 40 possessions with two touchdowns, 10 interceptions and two lost fumbles.
"He gave them the lead with a go-ahead drive only one time, in 2010 versus Chicago," Kacsmar said, "and even that game was a bad fourth quarter for him. He threw an interception with Buffalo leading, then had four straight incompletions at the Chicago 44, finally ending with an interception on his last play."