CARSON, CA-The Los Angeles Chargers hadn’t scored more than 27 points in a game all season. The Chargers matched that point total in the second quarter alone against the Buffalo Bills on their way to an easy 54-24 win Sunday at StubHub Center. It was not supposed to be this easy.
But Bills head coach Sean McDermott made things quite a bit more comfortable for the Chargers defense by benching starter Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman. Instead of a tough AFC game, the Chargers walked away with a laugher. The punch line was on McDermott and Peterman. By halftime, this game was over.
Thanks to five first half interceptions thrown by Peterman, the Chargers walked into the locker room at intermission holding a 37-7 advantage. Korey Toomer’s 59-yard pick six off Peterman in the first quarter got the party started for the Chargers.
“We knew our pass rush would get to him if we put some pressure on him,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said afterwards. “We studied all the preseason film and every time he was under pressure; his completion percentage was a lot lower. We didn’t have to manufacture the pressure. We have guys that can apply it. They did a good job of that.”
The big afternoon for Lynn’s defense included scoring two touchdowns, securing six turnovers and tying a franchise mark with three interceptions in a quarter of a game. The last time a Chargers defense managed to do that was 10 years ago against the Indianapolis Colts.
“Our defense started getting those turnovers last week,” Lynn said. “Sometimes they come in bunches. They came today in bunches, and our offense took advantage of them most of the time. We got points on defense and that’s great.”
Starting a rookie quarterback on the road in the middle of the season while your team is still deeply embedded in a playoff spot means one of two things: a head coach either don’t trust his starter-in the case of McDermott, Taylor would be that starter-or he does not really care about sacrificing the season for the benefit of the future of the team.
“This is about not only winning now, but also in the future,” McDermott said. “These guys work hard and I felt, like I do every decision I make, that it was in the right and best interest of this football team moving forward.”
An unofficial way of sabotaging the season would be a more realistic way of looking at the Bills’ decision to sit Taylor in favor of Peterman. Before the Bills played against the Chargers, Taylor threw just three interceptions through the team’s first nine games.
Peterman (6-14, 66 yards, 5 INTs) eclipsed that total in one half. Down 40-7 in the third quarter, McDermott, in full acknowledgement that he made a bone-headed decision, inserted Taylor into the game. Taylor finished the game, completing 15 of 25 passes for 158 yards. He also rushed for 38 yards and led the Bills on several touchdown drives.
“I go in and just play,” Taylor said. “I’m not a rookie, I’m not a second or third year guy. I’ve been around, and I’ve seen different sides of the scoreboard. When I go in, I take it one play at a time. I know it’s cliché to say that, but that’s all you can do at that point when the score is against you. To make an impact, you have to execute one play at a time. I stepped into the huddle just to tell the guys, ‘We have a full second half ahead of us, and we have to go out there and play without worrying about the score.’ We were able to put some points on the board. Obviously, it wasn’t enough to win, but there are things we can learn from the second half.”
Casey Hayward, who claimed the 18th and 19th interceptions of his career with his two pickoffs of Peterman, didn’t hide the fact that the defensive unit was jacked at the prospect of facing a young quarterback.
“They were starting a new quarterback, so we were picking our shots and licking our hands a little bit like, he is either going to do really good or bad — and hopefully he does bad,” Hayward said.
It was all good for the Chargers and their defense. It was all bad for Peterman and the Bills.
“He’s a rookie,” Hayward said. “He’s a rookie guy, so they decided to start him this week against our team. I’m pretty sure we might’ve felt a little disrespected. They started a rookie against a really good defense. We have some good edge rushers and we have some good guys in the secondary. So, we had to take advantage of that.”