Chargers Capitalize on Interceptions to Rout Bills

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Los Angeles Chargers (28) Melvin Gordon (RB) runs the ball during an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 19, 2017 at StubHub Center in Carson, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

Updated Nov. 19, 2017 at 9:17 p.m.

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The Los Angeles Chargers intercepted five passes thrown in the first half by rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, converting them into 24 points in a 54-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday.

The 54 points matched the fourth most in the team’s 58-season history, four off the team record set on Dec. 22, 1963 against the Denver Broncos.

The Chargers 37 first-half points were the most for a first half in team history, erasing the previous record of 35.

The 37 points were the third most for any half in team history behind the 42 in the second half of a Nov. 12, 2006 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and 41 on Nov. 5, 1961 against the New York Titans.

The five interceptions were one short of the team record, accomplished six times, most recently on Nov. 11, 2007. The Chargers made five interceptions in a game eight other times, most recently on Dec. 16, 2007.

“From what I hear, there were a lot of records in that game,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Really, the only one I care about is penalties. At halftime, the only stat I looked at was zero penalties. Any time we’re playing that type of game, we’re playing smart football. We have a chance to win when we play the way we did today.”

The Chargers were penalized once, for defensive pass interference in the fourth quarter. This was the 28th time they have had one penalty in a game. The Chargers have played five games without being penalized, the most recent on Oct. 9, 2011 against Denver.

Peterman’s five interceptions were one short of Joe Ferguson’s team record set on Nov. 10, 1974, against the Houston Oilers. The NFL single-game record is eight set by Jim Hardy of the Chicago Cardinals in 1950.

“We knew our pass rush would get to him if we put some pressure on him,” Lynn said. “We studied all the preseason film and every time he was under pressure, his completion percentage was a lot lower.”

Peterman completed six of 14 passes for 66 yards in his first NFL start and second appearance. He was replaced at the start of the second half by Tyrod Taylor, who had started each of Buffalo’s first nine games this season.

“I did not play very well,” said Peterman, a fifth-round draft choice from Pittsburgh, who began his college career at Tennessee. “As things start to happen, I have to let them go. I have to put more on myself.”

Peterman called the game “a good learning experience for me.”

Bills first-year coach Sean McDermott was non-committal about who would start next Sunday’s game at Kansas City.

“I’m going to take my time and evaluate it,” McDermott said.

Quarterback Philip Rivers completed 20 of 32 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers (4-6) in three quarters of action. Kellen Clemens completed all five of his passes for 33 yards in the fourth quarter in his first regular-season action at quarterback this season.

Rivers had played every offensive snap of the season entering Sunday’s game and has started 186 consecutive regular-season games, a streak that began at the start of the 2006 season.

There was uncertainty heading into the game about whether Rivers would be able to play. He self-reported concussion symptoms Monday and was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol, which requires clearance by an independent neurological consultant to return to play. Rivers received that clearance on Friday.

“I felt good the whole game game and really leading up to it the whole week,” said Rivers, who missed part of one practice for the game, but fully participated in the other two. “I was still able to get everything from a preparation standpoint that I needed to.”

The Chargers outgained the Bills, 429-393 yards, led 28-18 in first downs and 36:06-23:54 in time of possession before a crowd at StubHub Center announced at 25,015.

Peterman completed both of his first two passes on the game’s opening possession, then had a short pass intercepted linebacker Korey Toomer who returned it 59 yards for a touchdown. The interception was the first by Toomer in his four-season NFL career.

The Bills next possession ended with cornerback Casey Hayward intercepting a long pass by Peterman, who returned the ball seven yards to Buffalo’s 31-yard line. Nick Novak missed a 46-yard field goal attempt four plays later.

The Bills tied the score on the ensuing possession on LeSean McCoy’s 27- yard touchdown run, one play after he began the drive by running for 37 yards.

Novak’s 33-yard field goal on the next possession began a streak of 33 unanswered points by the Chargers.

Rivers threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, six plays after Tre Boston intercepted a Peterman pass and returned it nine yards to Buffalo’s 46-yard line.

Rivers threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Allen, four plays after Casey Hayward intercepted a Peterman pass at the Bills 17-yard line on Buffalo’s first play after the touchdown and returned it two yards.

Novak kicked a 28-yard field goal and Melvin Gordon ran 10 yards for a touchdown on the Chargers next two possessions, which both followed Bills punts.

Novak kicked a 39-yard field goal with no time left in the second quarter, six plays after cornerback Trevor Williams intercepted a deep Peterman pass at the Chargers 39-yard line and returned it seven yards. The interception was Williams’ second in his two-season NFL career, both this season.

Novak kicked a 28-yard field goal on the first drive on the second half.

Buffalo (5-5) ended the streak on Stephen Hauschka’s 50-yard field goal with seven minutes, 34 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Chargers defense scored its second touchdown of the game with 1:51 to play in the third quarter when defensive end Joey Bosa sacked Taylor for an eight-yard loss and forced a fumble which outside linebacker Melvin Ingram recovered and ran 39 yards for the first touchdown in his six-season NFL career.

Rookie Austin Ekeler ran 21 yards for the Chargers final touchdown with 7:57 remaining.

Taylor completed 15 of 25 passes for 158 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to McCoy with 13:51 left. Taylor also ran two yards for a touchdown with 4:49 to play.

“As a team, we have a lot to learn from this film,” said Taylor, who was replaced by Peterman with 4:53 remaining in last Sunday’s 47-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. “We haven’t played well the past two games. We have to be able to fix that and do whatever it takes to get back on the winning side of the scoreboard moving forward.”

City News Service

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