By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Dec. 04 2005

Welcome to the National Football League, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"I felt like a rookie out there," said Fitzpatrick, the Rams' first-year
quarterback, after his first start ended in a 24-9 loss to Washington on
Sunday. "You can watch all the film you want, but then when you get out there,
things go a little bit faster."

Fitzpatrick's week had moved at warp speed after he rallied the Rams from a
three-touchdown deficit to a 33-27 overtime victory at Houston. Fitzpatrick, a
seventh-round draft pick from Harvard, not only had to deal with cramming for
the league's 10th-ranked defense, he was busy answering queries from media
outlets nationwide.

After shredding the lowly Texans for 310 passing yards and three touchdowns,
Fitzpatrick couldn't get the league's No. 4 offense into gear vs. the Redskins:
The Rams (5-7) finished with season lows for points and total yardage (191
yards) as their playoff hopes took a serious hit.

The puny output was due partly to another ineffective day on the ground. The
Rams averaged 2.9 yards on 17 carries, mustering just 49 rushing yards.
Fitzpatrick accounted for 22 yards on five scrambles. Overall, offensive
coordinator Steve Fairchild called nearly four times as many passes as runs.

"We were going to do whatever we could to move the ball. It looked like passing
was the way to go," said Fitzpatrick, 23. "I just didn't do a good enough job
of getting the play in the right guys' hands."

Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 36 passes for 163 yards, with one late interception
and no scores. His passer rating was a weak 58.0.

"This was different for him because the opponent had the chance to get ready
for him all week long," interim head coach Joe Vitt said. "But I think he was
OK."

Fitzpatrick never had taken a regular-season snap when he was pressed into
action last week. Marc Bulger already was out with a shoulder injury, and his
replacement, Jamie Martin, went down with a concussion late in the first
period. The storybook tale included 10 Rams points in the final minute, making
it 27-27, plus a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.

There were no happily ever afters this time, though.

With Bulger and Martin still sidelined, the Redskins went after the rookie with
a variety of blitzes and coverages. "There were some things that confused me a
little bit," Fitzpatrick said. "We felt like they were going to blitz, and
there were things we were going to do to counter that. They just didn't work as
well as we wanted them to."

And Fitzpatrick wasn't as sharp as he'd hoped to be. "I missed some throws," he
said. "There were a few balls, especially on the sidelines, that sailed on me."

The 'Skins sacked Fitzpatrick three times and pressured him often. "We
definitely didn't want him to feel comfortable back there," defensive end
Renaldo Wynn said. "Guys were rushing with a passion."

The Rams put together an 11-play, 86-yard march in the second period.
Fitzpatrick hit on four of six passes for 44 yards and ran twice for 14 yards,
including a 7-yard scramble for a touchdown that made it 7-7.

Running back Steven Jackson noted that Fitzpatrick has "had one OK game and one
great game. You can't turn your back on him. As the weeks go by, he's going to
learn."

Trouble is, the Rams are running out of weeks. "It was a learning experience
for me; I'll take a lot away from the game," Fitzpatrick said. "But
unfortunately this team right now, in the do-or-die situation that we're in, we
can't be waiting for people to learn."