The Bills had their best season of the century last year. A 9-7 record allowed them to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 1999, ending the longest drought in major North American sports.
The only stumble was a bizarre episode in the middle of the season when they abruptly benched their starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, and went with the rookie Nathan Peterman, who promptly threw five interceptions in the first half.
So it came as a surprise when the Bills traded Taylor after the season, and it was an utter shock when they announced that their starter this year … would be Nathan Peterman.
It was one of those moves that every casual fan and sports radio caller said was a terrible decision. But sometimes casual fans and sports radio callers are absolutely right.
Peterman was atrocious again on Sunday, completing 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards and 2 interceptions. And the Bills, a playoff team last season, lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 47-3.
In his horrific game last season, Peterman had an adjusted yards per pass figure of minus-11.36, the worst by any quarterback all year. On Sunday, he was better, sort of, posting a minus-3.67. But that was still easily the worst of the week in the N.F.L.
The negative number means, in theory, the Bills would have been better off if Peterman had simply taken a knee on every passing down.
By the N.F.L.’s quarterback rating system, Peterman was actually worse on Sunday, dropping from 17.9 in his 2017 debacle to the minimum score, 0.
In the third quarter, trailing by 40-0, Bills Coach Sean McDermott finally gave up on the latest Peterman experiment and benched him for the rookie Josh Allen, who was a little better, against mostly reserve Ravens: 6 for 15 for 74 yards. Allen’s adjusted yards per pass figure, while not impressive, was at least a positive number: 4.93.
The problem for the Bills and their fans are those are the team’s only options; Buffalo traded A.J. McCarron to the Raiders on Sept. 1. (Here’s the obligatory reminder that Colin Kaepernick remains available.)
“I’m going to look at everything,” McDermott said of the quarterback situation after the game. “It’s too early to go one way or another.”
Looking at the other end of the quarterback table, the best performance of the week came from an unlikely source: Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes and posted a 17.75 adjusted yards per attempt figure for the Buccaneers. That’s the same Fitzpatrick who was the Bills starter from 2009 to 2012.
So what happened to the Bills on Sunday? While Peterman was forgettable, he should not get all the blame for a 44-point loss. The offensive line, which had several newcomers, provided him with little time. His receiving corps was shaky. (The Bills looked like they could have used Deonte Thompson, who left as a free agent for the Cowboys.)
A running game? LeSean McCoy had 22 yards on seven carries. The Bills had 10 penalties for 100 yards. And the secondary, which had been considered a strength, was burned repeatedly. Vontae Davis, a projected starter at cornerback, was a scratch, apparently a healthy one.
Next up for the Bills is a home game against the Chargers. The Bills are 7½-point underdogs, the biggest margin for any home team next week. It could be a long season.