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Historical perspective on Nathan Peterman’s five interceptions

Just how bad was Nathan Peterman’s starting debut?

Buffalo Bills v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The consensus opinion from around the National Football League was that rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman was going to face a challenge during the first start of his career Sunday. But even among the most pessimistic of football fans, it would be hard to find pre-game prognostications that surpassed the historically bad clunker put forth by Peterman during the Buffalo Bills’ humiliating 54-24 defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

In suffering their third straight blowout loss since a surprising 5-2 start to the season, Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half (with a lot of help from his teammates), the most by a quarterback since the 2001 season.

Peterman finished the day 6-of-15 for 66 yards and the five interceptions. He had a fumbled snap, too, but was able to recover that.

“I didn't play well. I've got to put the bad plays behind me, but it was hard to turn things back in our favor,” Peterman said to the media during the post-game press conference.

In recording his clunker of a debut, Peterman made history, joining a dubious group of signal callers to toss five interceptions in a single half of football. Peterman joins former Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick and Drew Bledsoe, along with Ty Detmer, as the only quarterbacks to throw five interceptions in one half of football since 1991.

On his first interception, Peterman’s pass glanced off the hands of fullback Patrick DiMarco and was returned by Korey Toomer 59 yards for a pick-six. The ensuing four interceptions came as a result of either bad decision-making, bad bounces, or both.

Peterman’s stinker of a debut was the first time since the NFL merger in 1970 where a quarterback threw at least five interceptions in a first half, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was the 125th time a quarterback was intercepted five times in a game since the merger.

The dubious feat of throwing five or more interceptions in a game has now happened in 45 games since 1991, but thankfully for Peterman he was pulled before he could make a run at Detmer’s futility mark of SEVEN interceptions, during a 24-14 loss as a member of the Detroit Lions vs. the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 23, 2001.

From the perspective of a quarterback making his first career start, Peterman’s inept performance was only exceeded by Tom Tupa, who tossed six interceptions for the Phoenix Cardinals during a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1989 season. Tupa’s time as a starting quarterback was brief; after two seasons, Tupa was converted to a punter, a role he held for 16 seasons.

If you’re tired of all the negative press, stop reading because it gets worse: Peterman posted the fourth-worst performance ever by a quarterback (minimum of 14 pass attempts), and the worst in the last 40 years.

We’ll conclude with one more stat to summarize Peterman’s horrific debut: no quarterback since the NFL merger had tossed five interceptions on 20 or fewer pass attempts without recording one touchdown pass...until Peterman vs. the Chargers.

It can only get better for Peterman, right? Sean McDermott, Brandon Beane and the rest of the Bills’ brain trust can only hope the fifth-rounder out of Pittsburgh improves on his inauspicious debut.