Chargers defense piles up 6 takeaways in rout of Bills
By DAN GREENSPAN, Associated Press
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward felt “a little disrespected” that the Buffalo Bills decided to let rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman make his first career start against their defense.
The Chargers gave Peterman a forgettable introduction to the NFL, intercepting him five times in the first half and getting six takeaways total in a 54-24 demolition of the Bills on Sunday.
Hayward said the Bills were “tripping” to let the fifth-round pick replace Tyrod Taylor.
“You’re starting a rookie against a really good defense. We got some good edge rushers. We got some good guys in the secondary, so we had to take advantage of that,” Hayward said. “When they announced it, I’m like, ‘OK? Against us?'”
Linebacker Korey Toomer had a 59-yard pick-six early in the game, and Hayward had two interceptions. Tre Boston and Trevor Williams also picked off Peterman, who became the second quarterback since 1991 to throw five interceptions in his first start. Keith Null threw five interceptions with the St. Louis Rams in 2009.
Joey Bosa had a strip-sack of Taylor in the third quarter, and Melvin Ingram returned the loose ball 39 yards for a touchdown. Taylor, who started the first nine games of the season, replaced Peterman to start the second half.
“No matter who’s back there, we are going to do what we do,” Ingram said. “We’re going to try to get after the quarterback, and our DBs, they was in they jack mode today.”
The Chargers had 11 takeaways in their first eight games. They bolstered their fledgling playoff hopes with their most emphatic win since beating the New York Jets 31-0 in 2014.
Los Angeles turned its six takeaways into 31 points, but it could have been worse for the Bills. Nick Novak missed a 46-yard field goal following Hayward’s first interception.
“It felt good,” said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who was 20-of-32 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns. “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.”
The 54 points was the most ever in a game that Rivers started, and it was the first time the Chargers topped 50 since a 2008 win over the Denver Broncos.
It was the kind of complete performance the jubilant Chargers believe can propel them back into the postseason chase. Those aspirations seemed outlandish after losing their first four games, including two against AFC West opponents, and seeing the Kansas City Chiefs jump out to a 5-0 start. The Chargers are now only two games back of the division leaders.
It started with a defense that finally capitalized on opportunities handed to them and created plenty more. Toomer got his interception after Peterman’s pass hit fullback Patrick DiMarco in the hands and bounced up in the air. Hayward’s first pick was on a lob by Peterman under pressure, and he got the second by following Peterman’s gaze and undercutting a route. Bosa planted his helmet squarely in Peterman’s sternum during the throw that resulted in Boston’s third interception in two games.
“Sometimes they come in bunches, and they came today in bunches,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
“We were due for a game like this,” Toomer said.
Still, Ingram sees it as just a glimpse of what the Chargers can do, especially on defense.
“We can’t just try to hang our hats on this,” Ingram said. “There is still a long season ahead of us, and we headed in the right direction, but we ain’t where we want to be yet.”
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