Week 2 Preview: Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Chargers
That didn’t take long.
Sean McDermott has seen enough of Nathan Peterman after three NFL starts – two of which were unmitigated disasters where he was benched in the second half – and has made the move to rookie first-round pick Josh Allen.
“Josh will start; it’s the right move for our team,” McDermott said Wednesday.
Peterman was horrendous in the season-opening 47-3 loss to the Ravens as he completed 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards with two interceptions and produced just one first down in two quarters and two possessions at Baltimore. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed more passes (25) than Peterman had yards, and Flacco was out of the game midway through the third quarter.
With the Los Angeles Chargers coming to Buffalo Sunday – the same Chargers who intercepted five Peterman passes last November when he made his first NFL start – McDermott is going to spare Peterman a week of answering questions about all of it. He’s going with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft despite concerns from outsiders – and perhaps maybe even some insiders at One Bills Drive – that he may not be ready for the assignment.
“I don’t feel the need, honestly, to elaborate,” said McDermott. “We talk a lot in house about decisions and things and what we have to do and the right move at the right time, and right now, this is the right move for us. I’m not going to get into how permanent it is. You have to understand where I’m coming from, it’s the right move for our football team and I’m not going any further than that.”
Allen was deemed not ready to start against Baltimore, and he didn’t exactly light M&T Bank Stadium on fire when he went into the game in the third quarter as he completed 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards in mop-up duty. But this is the situation the Bills find themselves because they don’t have a competent quarterback on the roster to turn to in place of Peterman that would enable McDermott to keep Allen on the bench in learning mode.
“Experience is important, and he’s going to get valuable experience from, being in this case, behind the steering wheel,” McDermott said of Allen. “There’s certainly valuable experience when you can stand and watch, but as we all know there’s no substitute for experience when you’re actually behind the wheel.”
Allen said he thinks having played 32 offensive snaps last week will help him this week when he takes the field.
“I took a lot from it,” Allen said of playing last week. “First drive I was in, I was a little quick to get my eyes down, but as the game went on I felt a little more comfortable and just trusted the guys in front of me and the guys outside to go make some plays. I felt pretty calm.”
Allen will be facing a Chargers team that routed the Bills 54-24 last season, and it wasn’t all because of the five interceptions Peterman threw in what was his first career NFL start. The Chargers’ offense did whatever it wanted against the Bills defense, similar to what the Ravens offense did last week.
And now Los Angeles comes east with its own painful loss still lingering as it dropped a 38-28 decision at home to the Chiefs despite Philip Rivers passing for 424 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bills appear ill-equipped to handle an attack as diverse and potent as the Chargers, and having to outscore teams is going to be a challenge every week for the Bills, whether it’s Allen or Peterman at the controls.
“Tough ballgame, a tough loss for sure,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier of the Baltimore game. “Looking forward to coming home this weekend and playing in front of our home fans. It’s a chance to really get back on the right foot, so we’re excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us.”
36th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead 23-10-2. The Bills traveled to Los Angeles last season and absorbed an epic 54-24 beatdown from the Chargers as Nathan Peterman threw five first-half interceptions in his first NFL start. The Bills have lost the last three games in the series, their last victory coming in 2008 at New Era Field. Of course, in a previous life, back in the AFL days, Buffalo beat the Chargers in back-to-back championship games in 1964 and 1965.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 – Offensive possessions by the Bills in the season opener against Baltimore that totaled negative yardage, which led to an average drive length of 6.6 yards.
TE Charles Clay. The Bills are going to struggle to throw the ball all season, but it will be worse than everyone anticipated if Clay continues to be as invisible as he was in Baltimore. He was targeted only twice, did not catch a pass, and that simply can’t happen, especially in a Brian Daboll offense that has always relied on tight ends to be involved. This week, Josh Allen will need all the help he can get, and Clay has to make himself more available as a check-down option than he was against the Ravens.
The Bills cannot succeed if they do not get LeSean McCoy going early in games. And that will be even more important this week now that Josh Allen has been named the starting quarterback. The Bills have to establish the run, getting into favorable down and distances situations, and lessen the burden Allen will have to carry in his first NFL start. And that will start up front as the Buffalo offensive line simply has to be better, in every aspect, than it was in the opener against the Ravens. There were times when the Bills’ blockers were bowled over by Baltimore defenders, and too many plays were blown up before they ever had a chance to formulate.
On defense, Phillip Rivers is going to be licking his chops after watching Joe Flacco pick apart the Bills’ secondary, mainly because he had all day to throw. The Bills have to generate a pass rush against Rivers and at least get him off his spot in the pocket, or they will be in for another long day. Los Angeles ran the ball well against Kansas City with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, and the Bills need to be able to take that phase away. LBs Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano each played pretty well last week, if that’s possible in a game where the defense gave up 47 points.
THEY SAID IT
QB Josh Allen on his first NFL start: “Obviously, I’m super excited and thankful for the chance to be the starter of this team, something I dreamed about for a long time. Now that it’s here, come Sunday, just try to do my job, not trying to do too much, trust those around me and ultimately try to be the quarterback this team needs.”
DE Jerry Hughes on the poor red zone defense: “We understood that when we pulled down the sheet and saw the game notes, it was glaring at us because we pride ourselves on red zone defense. So, we understand that we stunk it up in Week 1, we have to answer back stronger and I think that’s what guys are licking their chops and getting ready to do. It’s not so much sulking, licking their wounds, guys are anxious to get back out there Sunday and answer the call.”
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Bills CBs: The Bills would love to match up their best CB, Tre’Davious White, all day on Allen, but that may not be possible because LA has other productive WRs, namely 2017 first-rounder Mike Williams, who can’t be ignored. If the Chargers can find a way to scheme Allen away from White, Allen could do some real damage because the Bills have no other starter-capable CBs on the roster. Phillip Gaines was terrible last week in Baltimore, so it will be interesting to see if the Bills activate veteran Vontae Davis.
Bills interior OL vs. Chargers front four: Center Ryan Groy and guards Vlad Ducasse and John Miller were egregiously bad in the Bills’ loss to the Ravens. They were repeatedly pushed into the pocket which forced QBs Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen to scramble, and they played a major role in the six sacks the QBs absorbed. In the run game, there was no push and LeSean McCoy had only 22 yards. Even without Joey Bosa, the Chargers could dominate the line and if they do, it will be another long day for the Bills.