Chargers' Lynn gets reunion with Bills; Peterman takes over
By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Anthony Lynn made his NFL head coaching debut last winter for one game amid the chaos of another lost season for the Buffalo Bills.
Although Lynn speaks warmly of his two seasons in chilly Buffalo, he hasn’t thought much about the Bills (5-4) this season before their imminent arrival at StubHub Center to face his Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) on Sunday.
“I interviewed there, and they went a different direction,” said Lynn, who spent 2015 as the Bills’ running backs coach and most of 2016 as their offensive coordinator.
“I didn’t think I was the favorite there anyway, because how many times do you hire a guy from the staff when you fire the head coach? It doesn’t happen too often. I did appreciate the interview, but I’m where I want to be.”
Although the Bills won 15 games over their two seasons, Lynn and head coach Rex Ryan couldn’t figure out how to end a playoff drought currently sitting at 17 years.
Lynn’s brief tenure after Ryan’s firing included the awkward task of benching Tyrod Taylor for the finale without being able to publicly explain the reasoning of then-GM Doug Whaley and owner Terry Pegula for the move.
New Bills coach Sean McDermott coincidentally made the same move earlier this week, benching Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman . The rookie fifth-round pick will make his first NFL start against the Chargers and their phenomenal pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
McDermott’s Bills are in playoff position with seven games to go, but he’s also struggling to figure out how to get the most out of a team with 23 players from last season’s team. Peterman is his latest attempt to generate a spark.
“I guess playing Coach Lynn, it won’t be weird, because we have bigger things to worry about,” said Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who racked up 2,162 yards during Lynn’s two seasons.
“Winning games, converting on third downs, running the ball, putting numbers up, putting stats up, putting drives together. We have all those things to kind of worry about, some things we’re not doing. We’ve got to find a way to do it.”
Two teams on two-game skids are meeting at the Chargers’ temporary home south of downtown LA. The Chargers, playing at home for just the second time in seven weeks, need a quick surge to have any hope of playoff contention, while the Bills control their own postseason destiny despite everything.
Here are more things to watch in these original AFL franchises’ first meeting since 2014:
QB QUESTION: Philip Rivers is recovering from symptoms of a concussion , which he reported after the Chargers returned from Jacksonville with a heartbreaking overtime loss , their fifth by eight points or fewer this season.
Although Rivers appears to be progressing well through the NFL’s concussion protocol, Lynn realizes his availability could be in question right up to game time.
If Rivers can’t play, Kellen Clemens would make his first NFL start since 2013. “In the backup position, you prepare the same way every week,” Clemens said. “You enjoy playing, but I understand my role. I’m here to help Philip and help this team in any capacity possible.”
SLIPPING: After getting off to a strong start under McDermott, the Bills are in jeopardy of making what’s become a familiar late-season fade during the longest active non-playoff streak in North America’s four major professional sports.
This marks the eighth time during the drought in which the Bills have had a winning record through nine games (all of them 5-4). They have proceeded to lose the 10th game the past six times. Buffalo hasn’t been 6-4 since 2000 — the year the drought began.
STALLED OFFENSE: While the Bills have their own concerns on offense leading to a quarterback change, the Chargers are struggling to explain several unimpressive efforts by an offense with ample talent, including Rivers and a solid group of receivers.
Los Angeles is 25th in the league in points, 22nd in yards on first down, and 29th in third-down efficiency, only reaching the red zone 20 times all season. Lynn and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt aren’t addressing the problems with personnel changes — not yet, anyway.
RUN IT: The ground game might be helpful in fixing the Chargers’ woes. Buffalo’s defense has allowed 492 yards rushing over the past two games, and LA running back Melvin Gordon seems overdue for a breakout game.
The veteran lost carries last week to rookie Austin Ekeler, who rushed for two scores before committing a key fumble. Lynn said both will play against Buffalo.
TRASHED: The Bills made a big offensive change, but the defense is smarting after giving up 47 points last week to New Orleans in their worst defensive game since 2012.
Buffalo has forced only one turnover in its two consecutive losses after forcing 17 during the 5-2 start. Rivers has thrown seven interceptions, and that’s actually an improvement from last season.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this report.
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL