ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In what may prove to be the worst decision of the 2017 NFL season, and perhaps the worst of Sean McDermott's head coaching career -- at least Buffalo Bills fans hope that's the case -- rookie Nathan Peterman's debut as a starting quarterback backfired.
In a big way.
Peterman threw five interceptions in a 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers before being mercifully pulled at halftime, and now the Bills have a quandary on their hands.
On Monday, McDermott would not say.
"We're still evaluating right now," he said. "I understand where you're coming from (asking the question); we'll take it one day at a time right now."
When McDermott made the move to Peterman last week, he told the quarterbacks on Tuesday and announced it to the rest of the team on Wednesday, so that probably will be the timeline again.
"I own the decision and that's on me," McDermott said Monday. "Sometimes you make decisions in leadership roles that work out and sometimes they don't work out. You try to make every decision with the right agenda that leads you to the decision.
"Obviously, it didn't work out, so you go back and learn from it as we continue to build. This is part of the growth process, you go through these pains, it burns, it burns hard, and you don't want that result that we had yesterday."
McDermott may have thought it was a good idea, but Peterman was essentially set up to fail. The Chargers have a ferocious pass rush, and the Bills' offensive line has not been stout as Taylor was the second-most sacked quarterback in the NFL, even with his incredible escape skills.
Peterman was constantly under duress, and he never really had a chance.
The move to Peterman raised eyebrows when it was announced Wednesday, mainly because the Bills flew to Los Angeles with a 5-4 record and in a playoff spot in the weak AFC.
But McDermott came to the conclusion that the Bills needed to be better on offense, and it wasn't a crazy thought because Taylor is not the answer at the position. However, Peterman was a fifth-round pick for many reasons, and turning the reins over to him at this stage of the season proved to be silly.
"I'm going to learn from it," Peterman said. "I can't say that enough. I've never experienced something like this. This is a good learning experience for me. As things start to happen I have to let them go. From the start I felt good. I felt very confident going into the game, but things just got away from us."
Beyond Peterman, the Bills defense was horrendous for a third straight game. They can't stop anybody, as evidenced by the 135 points they have allowed in losses to the Jets, Saints and Chargers. That's a new three-game futility record for the franchise.
Center Eric Wood was correct when he said that Nathan Peterman was going to take a lot of the blame for Buffalo's horrendous performance Sunday in Los Angeles. But the ninth-year veteran added, "When you start a rookie on the road like that, we have to be better around him and we weren't. He's going to take a lot of blame, but internally, we put it on ourselves around him."
Wood owned the fact that the Buffalo offensive line was once again overwhelmed by a stout defensive front. The Chargers ranked fourth in the NFL in sacks with defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram combining for 18, and while they managed only one against the Bills, there was non-stop pressure on both Peterman and Tyrod Taylor. That lone sack, though, was by Bosa on Taylor, and he forced a fumble that Ingram returned for a touchdown.
The Bills ran the ball a little better with 173 yards, but that came against a run defense that is the worst in the league, so there were no silver linings there, not that there could be any when you lose by 30 points.
The Bills' defense is bordering on embarrassing now. It has allowed 135 points in the last three games, the most a Buffalo defense has ever surrendered in a three-game stretch. For the first time in team history, the Bills gave up at least 47 points in back-to-back games. In the three games, they have allowed 1,262 yards and have been shredded for 11 rushing touchdowns. After forcing 17 turnovers in the first seven games, the Bills have forced only one in the last three.
"The game got away from us," head coach Sean McDermott said, though he didn't really say much on the defense beyond that. The bottom line is that the Bills' solid start on defense was a myth -- they lived off all those turnovers, and now their thin roster is being exposed as a unit that lacks top-end talent at almost every position on defense.
Since Week 5, the Bills are allowing 32.7 points per game which is worst in the NFL; 407.3 yards which is 31st; 269.7 passing yards which is 29th; 137.7 rushing yards which is 30th; 44.7 percent third-down conversions which is 29th. For those wondering, no, that's not good.
"I feel like we've prepared well, but it has to carry over," said the senior-most Bills defender, tackle Kyle Williams. "We have to execute and obviously that's a big problem right now. We've got guys who are continuing to push.
"It doesn't feel any worse than it does right now. We're up against a mountain of adversity with a whole lot of problems, and the only way to fix them is to go to work and not feel sorry for yourself. There's a whole lot of football left."
Three weeks ago, when the Bills were 5-2 and believing they had a real chance to make the playoffs, general manager Brandon Beane pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from his old team, the Panthers. The Bills were desperate for a big, competent receiver, and Benjamin certainly fit the bill.
As it turned out, Benjamin was inactive for the first game against the Jets, he caught three passes for 42 yards in the loss to the Saints (two on the meaningless final drive of the game) and then made one catch for 20 yards Sunday against the Chargers before exiting with a knee injury on the fourth play of the game.
Now, he could miss significant time, though McDermott reported Monday that there was no ligament damage so perhaps he can return this season.
NOTES: QB Nathan Peterman endured a historically bad NFL starting debut as he threw five first-half interceptions before being pulled. It tied an NFL record for picks thrown by a quarterback in his debut. ... RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 114 yards, his 13th 100-yard game as a Bill, which ties for fifth-most in franchise history. ... WR Kelvin Benjamin caught one pass for 20 yards, but suffered a knee injury and had to be helped off the field and then carted to the locker room. There was no ligament damage, but his return is unknown. ... SS Micah Hyde went down with a knee injury in the second half and could not finish the game. Head coach Sean McDermott said Monday he checked out fine and should be able to play this week. ... LT Cordy Glenn sat out yet another game due to his foot and ankle problems. ... LB Preston Brown was in on 13 tackles to lead the Bills. ... FS Jordan Poyer had 11 tackles and two pass breakups, one of which prevented a touchdown. ... RB Travaris Cadet made his Bills debut and rushed for 17 yards and caught six passes for 39 yards. ... WR Zay Jones caught four passes for a career-high 68 yards. ... RB Mike Tolbert was inactive due to a knee injury. ... WR Jordan Matthews was inactive due to a knee injury. ... CB Shareece Wright was a healthy inactive as E.J. Gaines returned to the lineup.
REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: F - Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half, nearly one for every two minutes of possession time the Bills had the ball in those first 30 minutes. Does anything more need to be said? Peterman's NFL starting debut was an abomination, and head coach Sean McDermott mercifully pulled him at halftime. Tyrod Taylor led the Bills to two second-half garbage time touchdowns, but he also contributed a sack/lost fumble that resulted in a Chargers touchdown. The offensive line was horrible as both quarterbacks were under siege all day.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus - LeSean McCoy rushed for 114 yards, but the only segment that mattered was the 64 yards he gained on two carries in the first quarter that resulted in a touchdown that briefly tied the game at 7-7. After that, none of his yardage meant a thing. The Bills finished with 173 yards that will help their average per game, but that's about it because it was hollow in a 30-point loss against a Chargers run defense that still ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing defense.
--PASS DEFENSE: D-minus - The Bills continue to be unable to generate a pass rush. They had one sack for one yard in this game, meaning they have five sacks in their last seven games. Chargers QB Philip Rivers didn't need to be sharp, but he was as he completed 20 of 32 passes for 251 yards with 12 going to Keenan Allen for 159 yards and both of his touchdowns. The Bills could not cover Allen. One player who did play well was safety Jordan Poyer who had two pass breakups and 11 tackles.
--RUSH DEFENSE: D - One week after allowing the Saints to rush for 298 yards, the Bills yielded "only" 146 to the Chargers. Melvin Gordon had 80, and the Chargers rushed for two touchdowns meaning the Bills have allowed 11 on the ground during their three-game losing streak. As has been the case recently, the front line can't hold up in their gaps and were getting pushed out too easily, and then the Bills had more tackling problems, a disturbing trend.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C - Kicker Stephen Hauschka provided one of the few bright spots as he made his 13th straight field goal from 50 yards or beyond, a new NFL record. Kickoff return man Brandon Tate averaged just 20.6 yards on seven returns and would have been wise to take a knee in the end zone on several of his attempts. Punter Colton Schmidt averaged only 39.3 yards on three punts in perfect kicking conditions.
--COACHING: F - Head coach Sean McDermott's move to start Peterman blew up in his face, and there's no way he can defend it. The fifth-round pick looked helpless, though his teammates certainly didn't give him any help. On defense, coordinator Leslie Frazier has big problems, because it has become clear that the Bills lack top-end talent and are being exposed for that. The Bills are now one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Three weeks ago, they somehow ranked No. 3 in the NFL in rush defense; now they're 29th. That's an inconceivable drop.