Sean McDermott was hesitant about playing Josh Allen from the beginning. The Bills head coach insisted he had watched what others outside the organization could not, young quarterback Nathan Peterman learning how to read defenses, listening in meetings and learning how to throw with the timing and accuracy required to play in the NFL.
Peterman supposedly showed what he could do behind the curtain before inexplicably morphing into a complete and utter mess once it was raised and the lights were turned up. There’s no way around the truth. When he hit the stage with the lead in the play, he suddenly forgot his lines. He gagged.
You weren’t sure whether to laugh at him or cry for him after the train wreck last year against the Chargers, when he was named the starter for Week One, when he threw up on himself in another disastrous 5-of-18 first half in the opener and yet again Sunday afternoon in a 20-13 loss to the Chargers.
When he started warming up Sunday, after Allen had injured his elbow in the third quarter with the Bills trailing the Texans, 10-3, you could practically hear a collective moan from fans watching on television across Western New York. If the Bills’ offense was a laughingstock, Peterman was the punch line.
Thing was, Peterman actually kept his composure after entering the game. He completed a 6-yard pass, leading to Stephen Hauschka’s 52-yard field goal. He made the right read and threw a perfect pass to Zay Jones for a go-ahead touchdown and a 13-10 lead. He was turning onto a wonderful story about persistence and perseverance.
He looked like an NFL quarterback.
And then he turned into Nathan Peterman.
The first interception was ghastly, a pick-six with 1:23 remaining that Johnathan Joseph returned 28 yards to give Houston a 20-13 lead. It sent you back to that Chargers game in which he threw five times to the other team in the first half. Hope for Buffalo remained before he threw another ill-advised pass across his body that was off-target, tipped and intercepted to seal the Texans’ win.
How it happens? Why it happens? Peterman might spend his life after football coping with the same questions.
McDermott should make sure it never happens again. He can’t put the former fifth-round pick on the field, assuming Peterman was allowed on the team charter and remains on the roster Monday. Good luck finding another team to take a chance on him.
The shame was that the Bills played well enough to win Sunday. Well, the defense did. Buffalo’s defense held Houston to 216 total yards, or 208 below the Texans’ average this season. The Bills forced three turnovers and had seven sacks. Houston had to settle for a field goal after marching down the field and getting a first-and-goal from the 1.
It was yet another terrific performance that was washed away in a wave of inexplicable interceptions and other blunders that crushed any chance of beating a good team. Jerry Hughes & Co., must have been demoralized knowing Houston scored all but three points on a muffed punt, a blocked punt and an interception.
The Bills have reached a crossroads in their season after falling to 2-4. A win Sunday would have changed everything. Buffalo would have been .500 through six games and just behind New England going into Sunday night’s game against Kansas City. For Buffalo, it would have been a major accomplishment considering its woes on offense.
Last week, the Eagles called the Bills about LeSean McCoy, leading to trade rumors of Philadelphia being interested in re-acquiring LeSean McCoy in an effort to defend their Super Bowl title. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that the Bills were intent on keeping McCoy through next season.
If that’s the case, the Bills should reconsider. It’s time to face the facts. McCoy has another year left on his contract, with a $9 million cap hit, next season. He’s a dynamic back. Buffalo would be worse without him, but trading him to Philly or any other team would allow the Bills to stockpile draft picks and get players who can help their quarterback.
McCoy had 73 yards on 16 carries, or 4.6 yards a pop. He should have had at least 25 rushing attempts Sunday. The Bills’ quarterbacks were 16 of 29 for 129 yards and the two interceptions.
McDermott and Brandon Beane need to make some decisions and soon. They have viewed their rebuilding project through a wide lens. They have spoken incessantly about building a sustained winner, a team that can challenge for the postseason every year. McCoy doesn’t figure to be a part of the long-term plan, so why keep him?
The Bills are a running team in a passing league. It worked last week in the win over Tennessee. It can be effective if they’re dominant on the ground, but that’s not the case. All they needed Sunday was a capable quarterback who could generate a scoring drive against a Houston team that was held in check all afternoon.
Allen’s head has been spinning for the past three weeks. He has struggled to make pre-snap reads. He’s slow to make decisions and hesitant with his arm. He’s playing like a rookie. So far, the rookie has been exposed. Peterman was exposed several times before Sunday and again in the final 90 seconds.
The Bills have been exposed, too. They have three quarterbacks on the roster after signing a 35-year-old backup off the street, and none belongs in the starting lineup for a team serious about winning. But the show must go on, as they say, before an audience that isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.