ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott could have stubbornly stuck to his guns and trotted out overwhelmed rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman this week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, he swallowed his pride and realized Tyrod Taylor gives the Bills a much better chance to succeed.
"Tyrod Taylor will be our starter; it's the right thing for our team," McDermott said Wednesday in announcing a decision that he simply had to make.
Peterman was horrific in the half he played during Buffalo's 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He threw five interceptions on just 14 passes. No quarterback since at least the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 had ever thrown five first-half interceptions. And as for quarterbacks in their NFL starting debut, only one had thrown that many in an entire game, Keith Null for the Rams in 2009.
After that showing, there was no way McDermott could go back to Peterman without the risk of losing his locker room. The first-year head coach was lambasted in the national media and some even foolishly called for his firing. That, of course, had nothing to do with his decision to revert to Taylor, even though it's clear - just based on the initial benching of Taylor - that McDermott doesn't think he is the answer to Buffalo's never-ending quarterback problems, especially in the long-term.
As for Taylor, he was a true pro when he addressed his benching last week, and he handled his elevation back to the starter's role the same way.
"It's been an interesting set of days, but it's the NFL, you've got to be prepared for anything and you can't let anything break your focus," Taylor said. "Last week, this week, you've got to continue to prepare and that's what I'm here to do now and do whatever it takes to get a win on Sunday against the Chiefs."
The Bills are now 5-5 and no longer locked into the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, which is where they were when McDermott made the controversial switch. Now they are confronted with a back-to-back scenario where they face the Chiefs on the road, and then the Patriots at home. They still have to go to New England in Week 16, too, so their wiggle room has shrunk to next to nothing. They most likely need to win four of their last six games to have a chance to end their 17-year playoff drought, so that means winning at least one of those three games, plus beating Indianapolis at home and Miami twice.
Said Taylor, "This team is very capable of making the playoffs, we have a whole bunch of talent, so we have to fix things and get back on the right track."
That means on both sides of the ball. During their three-game losing streak, the Bills may have been the worst team in the NFL with the exception of the Browns, and this is reflected in the league rankings. The Bills now rank 27th in yards gained, 30th in passing yards, 29th in first downs, 28th in sacks per pass attempt, and 19th in scoring. On defense, they are 25th in yards, 24th against the run (they were third before the losing streak began), 31st in sacks, and 23rd in points allowed.
It will be on Taylor to at least get the offense back on track, and he'll have to do it without wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who has a knee injury. It's a challenge he's embracing, in light of what has transpired.
"As of right now, I've been told I'm the starter for this week," said Taylor. "I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. This just made the chip bigger."
SERIES HISTORY: 45th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 23-20-1. The Chiefs have won the last three meetings, including the last game played in Kansas City, 30-22, in 2015. The Bills have won two of the three postseason games, including the AFC title game following the 1993 season.
--Nathan Peterman has lived to talk about it. His NFL debut last Sunday was an absolute nightmare, and Wednesday, Bills head coach Sean McDermott announced that he was going back to Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback for Buffalo's game in Kansas City. Peterman, McDermott said, handled the news like a pro and he was back at work in practice as the backup, doing his job.
"I have a positive attitude and I'm just going to try my best," Peterman said. "I'm here to do what they tell me to do and be ready at all times, so that's what I'll do is make sure I'm ready for the next opportunity. Just get better from it, see the things I did wrong, and see what I can do better next time."
Several of the veterans declined to say much about the decision to go back to Taylor, keeping their conversations private, but it was clear they want Taylor on the field.
"I feel like Tyrod gives us the best chance to win," said running back LeSean McCoy. "I'm biased because me and Tyrod have chemistry. I know what type of work ethic he has and the preparation he does every week. He puts a lot of work into this game. But I think Nate has a bright future, he's talented."
--Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin did not practice Wednesday and it seems unlikely that he will be able to play Sunday in Kansas City. He suffered a knee injury on the sixth play of the game against the Chargers, and while head coach Sean McDermott said no structural damage was found, Benjamin will be day-to-day this week.
As for the rest of the walking wounded, right guard John Miller, left tackle Cordy Glenn, and tackle Dion Dawkins did not practice Wednesday. Miller and Glenn were both inactive in Los Angeles, while Dawkins, who replaced Glenn, has an illness that sidelined him.
Working on a limited basis were tight end Charles Clay, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, running back Mike Tolbert, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and kicker Stephen Hauschka. Of that group, Matthews and Tolbert sat out the Chargers game. One positive was that safety Micah Hyde, who left the game with a knee injury, was a full participant.
--One of the biggest problems the Bills are having on offense the last three games is failure to stay out of difficult third-and-long situations. The issues have come on first down, in particular, where the Bills have had far too many negative plays.
"It's a great point," said McDermott. "We've operated from a position of detriment quite a bit and we have to make sure we stay on schedule. To be second-and-11, third-and-11, third-and-7, whatever it is, the probability is not in your corner at that point. You want third-and-medium and third-and-short, so staying on schedule is big. We've had that problem a little bit and we have to fix it."
In the game at New York, the Bills had 28 first-down plays and they gained only 70 yards, 2.5 per play. The league average on first-down plays is more than four yards. Against the Saints, the Bills gained only 65 yards on 20 first-down plays, an average of 3.25 per play. And in Los Angeles, the Bills gained 210 yards on 25 first-down plays, an 8.4 average, but 102 yards came on three plays, two of which were in the second half when the issue had long been decided.
NOTES: RB LeSean McCoy is coming off a 114-yard game where he broke a pair of long runs, and with 709 yards he's back on track in his march toward 1,000 for the season. ... K Stephen Hauschka is the new NFL record-holder for consecutive made field goals from 50 yards and beyond at 13, six of those coming this season for Buffalo. ... WR Kelvin Benjamin did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury and it's unlikely he'll play Sunday. ... WR Jordan Matthews continues to nurse a knee injury and did not practice. ... RB Mike Tolbert missed last week's game and Wednesday's practice with a knee injury. ... LT Cordy Glenn is still not practicing due to foot and ankle problems. He has played only six games this season. ... RG John Miller has been inactive for more than half the season, but last week was the first time he was out because of an injury, and he did not practice Wednesday. ... LT Dion Dawkins was sick on Wednesday and was held out of work. ... TE Charles Clay is still getting Wednesdays off because he is coming back from knee surgery. He has played in the last two games.