CARSON, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers have endured more than their share of close games and agonizing losses over the past two seasons, including five defeats by eight points or fewer this year alone.
Thanks to a defense that humiliated rookie Buffalo quarterback Nathan Peterman for the entire first half, the Chargers got nothing but enjoyment Sunday out of their most one-sided win in over three years.
And all the agony belonged to the Bills, who have backed themselves into a weird corner with their quarterback quandary.
Casey Hayward made two of the Chargers’ five interceptions against Peterman in the first half, and Los Angeles cruised to a 54-24 victory over Buffalo.
Korey Toomer returned Peterman’s third pass 59 yards for a touchdown after it bounced off Pat DiMarco’s hands. That bad break triggered an avalanche of interceptions for the fifth-round pick, and the Chargers surged to a 37-7 halftime lead and a relaxing second half in which many regulars rested ahead of the Chargers’ visit to Dallas on Thanksgiving.
“No matter who’s back there, we are going to do what we do,” said pass-rushing star Melvin Ingram, who returned a second-half fumble 39 yards for a touchdown after Joey Bosa sacked Tyrod Taylor. “We’re going to try to get after the quarterback, and our DBs, they were in they jack mode today.”
After Toomer’s TD return, Peterman threw two more interceptions in the first quarter and two additional picks in the second. The Chargers became the first team in the last two decades to make five interceptions in a first half.
“I didn’t play very well,” Peterman said. “When those things start to happen, I’ve got to be able to let it go.”
Peterman was pulled from his first NFL start with a 37-7 halftime deficit after just 14 pass attempts for the Bills (5-5), who lost their third straight.
“Guys all over the team were saying encouraging things,” Peterman said. “They were saying, ‘Hey, you’re young, and you’re going to learn from this,’ and telling me a lot of their stories, too. I’ve got a lot of great teammates.”
Buffalo benched Taylor and promoted Peterman earlier this week despite being in playoff position. Coach Sean McDermott replaced Peterman with Taylor in the second half, and the veteran went 15 of 25 for 158 yards, throwing one TD pass and rushing for another score.
Afterward, McDermott said he hasn’t decided who will start next Sunday against Kansas City. He plans to evaluate film of this game “and take my time.”
“I’m not disappointed in my decision,” McDermott said. “I’m disappointed in the result. … It wasn’t what he had hoped for, or what we had hoped for. At the same time, when you put a young player out there, a young quarterback, there’s going to be some ups and downs. Today is not indicative of who he is as a player.”
The Chargers (4-6) thoroughly capitalized on Peterman’s mistakes, putting up a 27-point second quarter and their highest-scoring performance in Philip Rivers’ 195 consecutive starts since 2006.
Los Angeles set a franchise record for points in a first half during the Bills’ worst defensive half since 1977, and the Chargers posted a resounding win for coach Anthony Lynn, who finished last season as Buffalo’s interim coach.
Rivers passed for 250 yards and Keenan Allen had 12 receptions for 159 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers.
“It felt good,” Rivers said. “The defense obviously helped out quite a bit. We had optimal field position, but we executed at a much better level offensively, much better rhythm and flow.”
Taylor looked much better than Peterman, as might be expected. The veteran hit LeSean McCoy with a 12-yard TD pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter. McCoy also rushed for 114 yards and an early score.
Afterward, Taylor delicately made his feelings clear, just as he politely disagreed with the Bills’ decision to bench him last week.
“I still plan to support Nathan if he’s the guy,” Taylor said. “Of course I believe in my ability. I think I’m a starter. … There’s definitely some things that we have to talk about as a leadership council. I’m pretty sure over the next couple of days things are going to definitely have to be talked about.”
Rivers spent the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol after reporting symptoms on Monday, but he was cleared in time to keep alive his streak of consecutive starts since the 2006 opener. The veteran went 21 of 33 before Kellen Clemens played the fourth quarter.
Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka set an NFL record by making his 13th consecutive field goal of 50 yards or longer during the third quarter.