Nathan Peterman's first NFL start was one to forget.
Peterman threw five interceptions and the Los Angeles Chargers scored 31 points off turnovers in a 54-24 win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday. It's the Bills' third loss in a row.
The decision to bench Tyrod Taylor and start Peterman was controversial because the Bills entered Sunday as the sixth seed in the AFC playoff race. While Taylor and the offense haven't played well in the last two weeks, the defense has been a bigger problem.
But head coach Sean McDermott decided to go with Peterman anyway, and it proved to be a bad decision. Peterman's first interception was returned for a touchdown. His next two interceptions were passes that hung up in the air because he was hit as he threw the ball. He capped off the half with two bad throws that were picked off.
Taylor replaced Peterman in the second half and led the Bills on three scoring drives with the game out of reach. He finished with 158 passing yards, 38 rushing yards and two total touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).
The turnovers aside, the Bills' defense remains a major problem. The Chargers had 146 rushing yards and Philip Rivers had no trouble carving up the Bills' defensive backfield. He finished with 251 yards and touchdowns.
With the loss, the Bills fall to 5-5. The Chargers improve to 4-6.
Here is the Buffalo Bills Week 11 report card:
GRADING THE UNITS
Quarterbacks - D
Don't let the grade fool you. The Nathan Peterman experiment was a failure. A massive failure. He threw five first half interceptions. The game was lost after that. The Chargers held a 37-7 lead at halftime. Peterman had a couple nice throws, including a 20-yarder to Kelvin Benjamin on the first drive of the game. But the five interceptions were the story.
Tyrod Taylor entered the game in the second half and led the Bills on three scoring drives. He made some good throws and ran when he need to, but by then the game was out of reach.
Running backs - B
LeSean McCoy had 114 rushing yards and a touchdown and added a 12-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. He had success running the ball to the left side, but offensive coordinator Rick Dennison apparently didn't see that. They didn't call a lot of plays to the left. When McCoy got opportunities to go that way, he had his biggest runs of the day.
The addition of Travaris Cadet should help the Bills offense. He had three carries for 17 yards and six catches for 39 yards. That's the kind of production you want from a backup running back. Mike Tolbert doesn't have the same kind of versatility. Tolbert can contribute in short yardage situations. Let Cadet handle the pass catching duties and other situations when McCoy can't go.
Receivers - D
Kelvin Benjamin had a 20-yard catch, but was injured on the play. That was Peterman's best throw of the game to a teammate. The receiving corps didn't have a big role in this game until it was too late. Zay Jones had four catches for 48 yards, including a nice 33-yard pass from Taylor. Charles Clay dropped a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Offensive line - F
The streak continues. Jordan Mills was abused against the Chargers' pass rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Mills isn't an NFL tackle. His pass blocking is atrocious and his run blocking isn't much better. The offensive line had some good moments, mainly on long McCoy runs. But the pass blocking wasn't great until Taylor entered the game and he could use his mobility to get out of dangerous situations.
Defensive line - F
Another terrible performance. No pass rush. They didn't stop the run. Yes, the Bills' turnovers on offense didn't help the defense. But the defense couldn't stop a parked car at this point.
Linebackers - F
See the defensive line.
Defensive backs - F
Jordan Poyer made a couple nice plays to prevent touchdowns. The defensive backs didn't have a big say in this one. The front seven was the problem. There's no pass rush and they can't stop the run. The secondary is hung out to dry.
Kicking and punting - B
Returns and coverage - C
The kick coverage units didn't get a lot of action. The Chargers had one kick return for 16 yards and they were limited on punt returns. Travis Benjamin can do some damage, so it was good to see that the Bills didn't give up opportunities in the kicking game to a dangerous punt returner.
Brandon Tate averaged 20.6 yards on seven kick returns. He's a solid returner, but the Bills' special teams unit doesn't seem built for a guy to break off big returns.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20. But Sean McDermott blew it. The decision to start Nathan Peterman over Tyrod Taylor was a stunner. The Bills are in the playoff hunt and have a winning record with Taylor at the helm. Yes, they entered Sunday with a two-game losing streak. But there were a lot of factors that went into those defeats, including terrible defensive play. Blaming Taylor, which is the signal you send by benching him, was wrong.
Peterman's five first half interceptions should have been enough to get him pulled. But McDermott kept him in the game. If the decision to start Peterman was questionable, this one was brainless. Instead of giving the Bills the best chance to compete, McDermott put them in the best position to lose. Maybe the tank is in full effect and the Bills just aren't admitting it publicly. It would explain the last few weeks, that's for sure.
Another criticism: Why was offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in the booth for Peterman's first NFL start? Why wouldn't the team's offensive guru be on the sideline for this game? An all-around failure by the coaching staff this week. Trust the process? Probably not.
OVERALL TEAM PERFORMANCE
This team is a mess. What else is there to say or write? The Bills are heading in the wrong direction. Whether it's the coaching staff or the players, this team isn't the same one that started 5-2.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
OFFENSE: Keenan Allen. The Bills didn't have an answer for Allen. He caught 12 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers didn't have any trouble getting the ball to his favorite target.
DEFENSE: Jordan Poyer. This slot was almost blank for a third week in a row, but Poyer deserved recognition. He had two passes defensed on plays that could've been touchdowns. He has been one of the bright spots for the Bills defense this season.
Sean McDermott. There is probably mistrust in the process at this point. The coaching staff has bungled the last few weeks. The Bills have looked over-matched, out-coached and ill-prepared. After so much hope in the first half of the season, the second half has been a disaster. McDermott is the leader of this team. Either this franchise is going all-in on the tank or they're making a playoff run. They can't have both, so it appears they want to pursue the former. This short-term pain won't result in long-term gain with this kind of leadership. Rick Dennison is a mediocre offensive coordinator. The defense hasn't played well. McDermott needs to be better. He has a lot of power within the organization. He needs to fix this mess.
STAT OF THE GAME
24. The Chargers had 24 points off the Bills' five first half turnovers. Turning over the ball that many times is bad enough, but giving up that many points won't win games.
STAT OF THE GAME II
5. The number of interceptions thrown by Nathan Peterman in the first half against the Chargers. Tyrod Taylor had three interceptions this season entering Sunday's game.
The Bills (5-5) will play at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The game will be televised on CBS.