Fitzpatrick, who completed 17 of 34 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown and one interception, guided the Buccaneers on two lengthy scoring drives.
In the first quarter, Fitzpatrick, a 13th-year pro from Harvard, led a nearly eight-minute drive that ended with the first of Patrick Murray’s four field goals to give the Buccaneers a 3-0 lead.
More impressive, he finished a 15-play, 81-yard drive with his fourth-quarter scoring pass to Sims that ultimately was the difference in the game. Fitzpatrick is one of only four players in N.F.L. history to throw touchdown passes for seven teams.
“Gritty — that’s what Ryan is,” Buccaneers Coach Dirk Koetter said. “He’s a get-it-done kind of guy. He’s going to make some plays that you don’t expect him to, and he might miss a couple plays you’d like him to make. He’s a tough guy. He’s a competitor, and you can’t have enough of those kinds of guys on your team.”
McCown, who has played for 10 franchises in 15 seasons, and was 1-10 as starter with the Buccaneers in 2014, completed 23 of 39 passes for 263 yards for the Jets, with one touchdown and one interception. Robby Anderson caught a 38-yard touchdown pass in the final minute, scoring for the fourth straight game to give the Jets one last chance.
But Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin recovered the ensuing onside kick to end any hope of a Jets comeback.
The loss was especially disappointing for the Jets, given how well they played in beating Buffalo by 34-21 the previous week, their only victory in the last five games. On Sunday, the Jets outgained the Buccaneers, 275 yards to 271, but more than 100 yards came on their final two possessions as they were trying to cut into a 12-point deficit.
“Very frustrating,” McCown said, adding: “We understand this is the National Football League. You’ve got to bring your A-game every week. We just didn’t come out and play at the level we’re capable of.”
As for the Buccaneers, Winston injured his shoulder on Oct. 15 but made three more starts before the team decided to shut him down for at least two weeks. Tampa Bay also played without Mike Evans, its leading receiver. He served a one-game league suspension for his role in a sideline skirmish the previous week at New Orleans.
Todd Bowles, the Jets’ coach, was unable to explain how his team could play so well against the Bills, then struggle against an opponent that had lost five games in a row.
“You don’t explain it. It’s week by week,” Bowles said of the Jets, who turned the ball over twice and allowed sacks by six Buccaneers. “You’ve got to show up every week in this league or you’ll get it handed to you. We didn’t show up today.”
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