Marshall, Fitzpatrick 1 win from first playoffs
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Brandon Marshall won't let his mind wander there.
No way is he going to imagine what it might be like Sunday night after the New York Jets clinch a playoff spot, sending the wide receiver to his first postseason appearance in 10 NFL seasons.
"Oh, no," Marshall said Wednesday, shaking his head. "I'm just thinking about the first play of Buffalo. You can probably ask me that after (playing the Bills) and I'll probably give you the same answer as far as we're just worried about whoever we're playing in that first playoff game."
Marshall has been through enough hope and, ultimately, disappointment when it comes to playing past Week 17. He has played in 151 regular-season games without a playoff appearance, the NFL's longest such active streak.
His quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is in his 11th season and also hasn't made it to the playoffs.
That's nearly 21 combined years of sitting home while others play in January for a chance at the Super Bowl. That's also lots of patience and resilience.
"There are a lot of guys that get caught up in that, and I've read a lot of books on mindset and mentalization," Marshall said. "It truly is, in life and sports, we've got to just focus on the here and the now and you've got to be mindful."
The Jets (10-5) are a win away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2010. They travel to Buffalo to take on Rex Ryan's Bills (7-8), and could also get in if the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Either way, Marshall insists that he's not thinking about all that, although he acknowledged "it'll be a dream come true" while talking about the possibility during Showtime's "Inside The NFL" on Tuesday night.
"If you're thinking down the road, you're not really enjoying this moment," Marshall said in the Jets' locker room. "I want to enjoy this moment. These are the memories that you'll have and will mean the most. It's not about the money. It's not about the fame. It's about the experiences and things that you've accomplished with your teammates."
Marshall takes a similar approach to his individual achievements this season, including setting the franchise mark with 101 catches — becoming the first player in NFL history to reach 100 receptions in six seasons. He also has a personal-best 13 touchdown catches.
Fitzpatrick has greatly benefited from having Marshall and Eric Decker to throw to, setting a career best with 29 TD passes — which ties him with Vinny Testaverde for the single-season franchise record. He has been selected the AFC offensive player of the week twice in the last three weeks, and has 13 TDs, one INT and a 106.5 quarterback rating during the Jets' five-game winning streak.
"All of them matter, so I don't feel any more pressure in this one than I have the last few," Fitzpatrick said. "That's just kind of every game. Every game when I go out there, there's a lot at stake, and so I just approach it like that every week."
That steady, even-keeled style has endeared Fitzpatrick to his teammates, and Marshall, in particular. After all, Fitzpatrick was acquired from Houston in March to provide an experienced backup to Geno Smith.
When Smith went down with a broken jaw after he was slugged by then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali in August, Fitzpatrick took the reins of the starting job and hasn't let go.
Not after a four-game losing streak. Not after a thumb injury that required surgery. Not after some up-and-down performances.
"You have to be composed at all times," Fitzpatrick said. "There's so much on the mental side of the game that you have to be able to think through, and you can't be going a million miles an hour."
Marshall was complimentary of Smith throughout the offseason and summer, gaining a comfort level with the quarterback everyone expected to be throwing the passes for the Jets. When Smith was sidelined, Marshall and Fitzpatrick huddled up and went through a crash-course on building a rapport.
It was gradual at first, but they're at the point where they can razz each other in the locker room, such as Fitzpatrick making fun of how Marshall says the word "honest."
"You say it weird," a smiling Fitzpatrick said, pointing out that it's more like "awnest."
Their relationship has also blossomed on the field, and it has them this close to celebrating a first playoff trip together.
"I'm so comfortable in every little route that he runs," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm very comfortable in I can get into his head and he can get into mine. That's very helpful as a quarterback when I can throw with 100 percent confidence knowing where somebody is going to be, or he can run a route with 100 percent confidence where the ball is going to be located. It makes us that much better."
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