Former Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman will make his first career start for the Buffalo Bills against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, as longtime starter Tyrod Taylor was benched by head coach Sean McDermott on Wednesday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Taylor had been Buffalo's starter since 2015, when he joined the team after four seasons as a backup with the Baltimore Ravens and beat out E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel for the job. Statistically, he’d been doing relatively well, as he threw for more than 3,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and never gave up more than six interceptions in a campaign.
Despite a few subpar games, his performance hadn’t wavered much from the norm, as he was on pace for 18 passing touchdowns and just under 3,000 yards again this year. But after the Bills suffered their first home loss of the season, an embarrassing 47-10 drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, it appears McDermott was no longer content with the norm.
The Bills coach didn’t go into great detail regarding what prompted the move, but it came just days after Taylor’s worst performance of the season, which coincided with the team falling to a 5-4 record. Against the Saints in Week 10, the seventh-year quarterback only managed to complete nine passes for 56 yards. He also threw a pick, failed to find the end zone and accounted for just 27 yards on the ground.
Peterman replaced Taylor in the fourth quarter and provided something of a spark, completing seven of his 10 passes for 79 yards and finding tight end Nick O’Leary for a late touchdown. And despite the fact that the rookie’s success came in garbage time, it was still enough to get McDermott’s attention.
"Nate's come in, he's handled himself well. He handled himself well in the game the other day," the coach said, per Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. "He's poised, he's mature beyond his years, he's worked hard. ... The success that he's had to this point, he's ready. I wouldn't make this move if I didn't think he was ready."
The timing of the move should work in Peterman’s favor, as he’ll have a chance to get his bearings against a 3-6 Chargers team before moving onto tougher competition. And in terms of pass defense, the Saints — who rank seventh in the NFL, allowing just 201 yards per game — pose more of a threat than any team remaining on Buffalo’s schedule.
The Chargers rank 11th that category, and despite their intimidating records, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) and the New England Patriots (7-2) have been awful this season when it comes to defending the pass, as they rank 28th and dead last, respectively, with the Patriots giving up a league-worst 287 yards per game.
Obviously, none of that guarantees Peterman a win or even a solid showing, as the rookie will still have to keep pace with two of the league’s best offenses over the next three weeks. But it looks like he’ll at least have a reasonable shot at success in his upcoming games, and it should be interesting to see what comes of this opportunity.