No one understands more than Nathan Peterman that the start of his NFL career has been, what should we say, a nightmare?
He knows fans are fed up with his penchant for playing catch with the other team, and while he claims he doesn’t pay attention to the ridicule, he knows it’s out there.
His message this week, as it became clear he was going to be the Bills’ starting quarterback Sunday against the Bears, is that sometimes things don’t go the way you want, and it’s how you deal with adversity that determines whether you can change the narrative.
“It’s football; you can’t predict how it’s going to go,” he said. “The ball doesn’t bounce your way sometimes and you have to go ahead and move forward and learn from the mistakes and move on. I think that stuff happens in life, whether good or bad. How you react to it is really what I think makes you who you are, and I think that’s what’s made me who I am (with) everything I’ve gone through in the past. That’s who I am standing in front of you today and trying to go out and learn from those things and be better.”
Is Sunday the day Peterman changes his narrative?
1. Will this be the day Nathan Peterman plays like he belongs in the NFL? To call the start of Peterman’s NFL career disastrous would be putting it mildly. You know the numbers, the most damning one of all that he has thrown 10 interceptions on just 84 attempts across seven appearances and three starts. In those seven games, his highest passing yardage total was 79 in a mop-up outing against the Saints, his first NFL appearance. In his starts, the best he’s done is 66 yards, that against the Chargers when he threw five interceptions in two quarters. The fact that the Bills are reduced to playing Peterman, again, speaks volumes about where they are as an offense. But if we’re trying to find a positive, maybe it’s this: He will be making his first start at home in a game where he won’t be confronted by a blizzard. Winning on the road is tough for all QBs, and he started at the Chargers and Ravens against two tough defenses. Of course, maybe home cooking won’t matter because the Bears have a stout defense and Peterman is, well, he’s Peterman.
2. Should the Bills rely on Peterman’s arm to get the offense moving? I know, it’s a scary thought, especially given that the Bears will probably have OLB Khalil Mack back this week, but here’s the rationale — the Bills can’t run the ball, plain and simple. LeSean McCoy has 257 yards all season, Chris Ivory averages 3.3 yards per rush, and there’s two reasons for this: The offensive line is sub-par across the board, including LT Dion Dawkins who has declined this season, and every defense is ganging up on the run because it knows the Bills can’t throw. So, how about throwing the ball? A lot. In college, some of Peterman’s best games were in shootouts when he was throwing frequently and in a nice rhythm. Give him that chance against a Bears team that ranks No. 3 in run defense and fourth in yards per rushing play. It’ll be like running into a brick wall, so put the ball in the air. Utilize McCoy in the passing game the way the Bears use Tarik Cohen, or the Patriots use James White. For once, get TE Charles Clay involved, and if new WR Terrelle Pryor plays, give him a chance to flash his athleticism. Even without knowing the playbook, Pryor might be the Bills’ best passing game weapon. Give Peterman a chance to shine. If he implodes, well, we would have expected that anyway.
3. Can the Bills’ defense play well enough to win the game? We know the offense is incapable of winning a game on its own, but the defense can do it. In fact, the Bills’ two wins were essentially courtesy of the defense as they forced six turnovers in those games against the Vikings and Titans, all of which were huge. The Bears have a young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky who is far from a finished product. He has been efficient with a 97.8 rating, but he has thrown six interceptions and been sacked 16 times. If the Bills can generate pressure, they can force Trubisky into some mistakes, and if the breaks fall their way, those mistakes could lead to Bills points the way they did in Minnesota. Buffalo will not have concussed LB Tremaine Edmunds and that will hurt, especially when the Bears get the ball to RB Tarik Cohen who is a premier home run hitter. The Bills need to limit his explosive plays, lock it down in pass coverage, and hold the Bears to 14 or less. If that happens, the Bills may stand a chance, barring another Peterman catastrophe.