Head Coach Sean McDermott has already proclaimed the Bills starter for the game in Los Angeles to be Tyrod Taylor, but that doesn’t mean that the incumbent won’t have a short leash. I found it interesting to see a good portion of the starters still in the game in the fourth quarter while they were down 40-3 as backup Quarterback Nathan Peterman entered the game.
Peterman trotted onto the field to cheers and he delivered a completion for the home crowd and it was the first, 1st down of the second half and that was with approximately 4:47 left in the game.
Peterman takes the snap, notices the possible flats defender man turn to O’Leary, so he fires it out to Deonte Thompson who is 1 on 1 outside. Quick read and decision.
Garbage time, prevent defense, and playing against back up players are going to be some of the counter arguments to the performance that he put forth and they are valid. But with the ones of the Bills in the game and the coverages the Saints showed, he still had to know where to go with the ball and that he did. So let’s take a look.
The Saints utilized a lot of cover 2 and Tampa 2 coverages as is expected when you are up big in the game. This includes when Taylor was in the game. This coverage forced Taylor and Peterman to check it down often. Peterman gets that look here, so he quickly checks it down.
Peterman was only blitzed two times and both fell incomplete, but I would put this incompletion on TE Nick O’leary. The defense appears to be bringing pressure off the edges and playing man coverage on the back end. Peterman knows that he must get rid of it quickly, he does and puts it in a location where only his man can catch it. Away from the defensive back who has outside leverage. The pass comes in hot but O’Leary has to expect the pass to be away from the defensive back and hot with the blitzes coming. Timing by both are slightly off and it goes incomplete, but hats off to Peterman on the idea, it was the correct one. Make a mental note of this play because Peterman did…
On 3rd and 1 Peterman and the offense align in a 2×2 set and run two separate route combinations. To the field they run a ‘Tosser’ concept which is two slants and a slant/flat combination into the boundary.
The rookie targets Benjamin on the slant but the hook to curl defender drives hard and gets a piece of the ball. Considering the defensive look and offensive route combos, I do wonder if Peterman had the ability to decide on where to being his progressions as O’Leary is wide open in the flats.
This brings us to 4th and 1 and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison appears to send in two plays. Pre-snap you can hear Linebacker Mani Te’o call out the play, he knows it’s a run and he alerts the force defender to the field (#50) none other than LB Gerald Hodges. You then hear Peterman say “can, can”, which alerts the offense that the first play call that Dennison sent in is the play they are going to run. So to Peterman the pitch to fullback Patrick Dimarco was advantageous to the offense.
Teo calls out the run, he alerts the boundary player about it. Peterman gives the can can call keeping the play and they run into a brick wall. So there were two calls on this play… pic.twitter.com/b3BKhsVLvF
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) November 13, 2017
As you will see from this angle, it was not advantageous for the offense and Peterman probably should have checked out of the play.
Onto Peterman’s second drive, a drive where he was super productive but also showed off several skills that show promise and leads me to believe that he may be closer to playing than most anticipate.
On the first play, the Saints show another two high look forcing Peterman to check it down to Dimarco for a nine yard gain. This was the defense dictating where the ball goes, much like they had all game.
On the very next play, Peterman shows off his poise by scanning the entire field. The defense shows another two high look but it does appear to be a split field coverage. There is some sort of combo coverage to the top of the screen and a cover 2 look to the bottom of the screen. The split field coverage often times confuses QBs as they expect the coverage to be the same to the opposite side of the field. It is slightly different here, but he is able to recognize the coverage shell. Peterman scanned the entire field, right to left, so he knows where the weakness is. That is the deep hole between the squatting corner, deep safety and the middle linebacker who is protecting the deep middle.
Peterman and Benjamin seemed to get into rhythm at the end of the game. On this play, the Bills align in a 2×2 set with the ball on the left hash. The defense shows a single high look and drop into cover 1 man. Peterman scans the field, recognizes the coverage and rifles the pass to Benjamin. He is a tremendous near hash thrower. He can make accurate passes anywhere into the boundary, my critique of his is his accuracy to the field when he needs velocity. This was him nailing down what he does best.
Remember that blitz I told you to make a mental note about? Well, the Saints go back to it on this play. This time Peterman attacks vertically. He sees cover 0, scans left to right and gets the pass deep to his speedy WR Thompson. Now the pass went incomplete, but this sort of processing from drive to drive and from pre to post snap was a nice sight to see.
On 2nd and 10 the Saints have seven defenders near the line of scrimmage but post snap the linebackers drop and the defense appears to be in cover 2. Peterman quickly gets it to Matthews from the left hash to the far numbers on the outbreaking route for a 14 yard gain. Nice recognition, accuracy and velocity.
Finally, on 1st and goal, Peterman again reads the defense really well. Buffalo aligns in a trips bunch set to the field with WR Benjamin isolated into the boundary. Post snap it appears that Peterman wants to throw to Benjamin as he runs Nathan’s favorite route, the dig. But the corner and safety do a good job of communicating and passing Kelvin off.
Peterman keeps his head in the play and knows he has a target coming across the middle into his sight picture. TE O’Leary is running a crossing pattern at a depth that is behind the hook/curl defender LB Gerald Hodges, but not deep enough where the boundary corner can jump it.
So Nathan extends the play by leaving the pocket and rolling to his right. Hodges feet don’t move, but starting defensive tackle the defensive tackle peels off and attempts to get into the passing lane.
O’Leary throttles down in the window and Peterman throws a strike on the move over the defensive tackle but to O’Leary’s back shoulder as to keep it away from the corner. A really good exhibition of pose, ability to extend plays and accuracy while on the run.
You probably noticed Holmes open on the ‘Smash’ concept to the field. I don’t know why he didn’t choose to work that concept because it is a good cover 2 beater, but it doesn’t take away from what he did into the boundary. Maybe it has to do with his lack of very good arm strength to make passes from the hash to outside the numbers.
After the game I believed that the production output from Peterman was just because they were in garbage time versus prevent coverages, but I will pull the reigns back on that sentiment. Peterman saw an array of one high, two high, zone, man, pattern matching coverages in his two drives. The passes to Benjamin and Thompson were against slot guy PJ Williams and starter Ken Crawley and they are talented in their own right. Even defensive end and starter Alex Okafor was still getting snaps late into the fourth. It was quite evident the Saints didn’t want to punt or give up a touchdown.
But it was the fact that Peterman was able to process the array of coverages and just get the ball out to where the coverage dictated. On the two occasions where they blitzed him and had guys up and around the line of scrimmage, a blue print laid down by the Jets, Peterman threw two incompletions. But again, it was his ability to recognize the blitz, know who the unblocked defender was and get the ball out to O’Leary. He then recognized the very same play on the next drive and attempted a deep shot to his speed receiver. That mental processing of coverages from snap to snap and recognition from drive to drive was exciting to see.
Do I believe he should be the starter? No, not yet, but his fourth quarter performance against the Saints really gave you a glimpse into what he can do.
With the offense in a funk the last two games, the losses piling up and playoff chances diminishing by the week, seeing Peterman play that well with most of the offensive starters still in, really showed me that the gap between he and Taylor may be diminishing.