Buffalo’s backup quarterback stood with his helmet on at the 45-yard line when Josh Lambo lined up to kick off the game.
For 58 minutes that appeared to be the extent of Nathan Peterman’s involvement in Sunday’s AFC playoff game between his Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.
Suddenly, with the game on the line, and 77 seconds remaining, Bills starter Tyrod Taylor was crunched by Dante Fowler. Buffalo had fourth-and-3 and was forced to insert its backup quarterback.
Taylor was placed in concussion protocol and the Bills placed their hopes in the hands of a 23-year-old rookie from Fruit Cove.
Trailing 10-3, the opportunity was far from ideal, but few are in the NFL.
“We knew they could bring pressure and they could do a bunch of things,” Peterman said. “They have a good (defensive) line and good pressure. I was trying to make a play and get a first down.”
Staring at the league’s most ferocious pass rush, Peterman looked to his left and did not see an option he liked. He ran for the first down, picking up four yards when he needed three.
Buffalo needed a touchdown to tie the game and the Bills were 52 yards away from one.
On Peterman’s second snap, he threw a dart to the left to Deonte Thompson for 14 yards and another first down. The visitors did not have any timeouts, but they did have a first down at the Jaguars’ 38-yard line.
That was when the team that led the NFL in sacks and was second in pass defense made two plays to ice the game and end Peterman’s cameo.
The Jaguars collapsed the pocket around Peterman, forcing him to throw the ball away on first down. An intentional grounding call not only sucked 10 seconds off the clock, but lost 10 yards.
Less than a minute remained when Peterman again looked for Thompson — this time to his right.
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey showed why he was named a first-team All-Pro on Friday as he beat Thompson to the ball, forced a deflection and intercepted the pass.
Afterward, Ramsey said he anticipated the play because it was the same formation the Bills used on Peterman’s completion to Thompson, except it was flipped to his side of the field.
“Ramsey was eight to 10 yards off and he made a great play. I can be a bit better with the ball too. I can put it on his outside shoulder,” Peterman said. “It probably would have helped a little bit. If he deflects it, it goes out of bounds.”
Instead, Buffalo’s first playoff appearance in 18 years ended at the first obstacle.
“Well, you look at playoff football, it’s usually tight margins, and so you can’t beat yourself,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott. “We had some situations today where we had opportunities to move the ball, and we hurt ourselves. We hurt ourselves at times with field position, special teams penalties, and when we get in the red zone, we’ve got to score touchdowns.”
Buffalo was held to 263 offensive yards. Peterman completed 1 of 3 passes for 14 yards and the game-ending interception. Taylor was 17 of 37 for 134 yards and an interception of his own.
Had Peterman led the Bills to their first touchdown of the day, it would have made for a storybook ending for a local guy — just not the majority of the 69,442 people who crammed into EverBank to watch the Jaguars’ first home playoff game in 18 years.
Peterman made his fifth appearance of the season Sunday. He started two games and played in portions of two others in the regular season.
“It was exciting for me,” Peterman said when asked to assess his first year as a professional. “Our team has worked really hard all year to get to the playoffs and get in the opportunity we are in. It was a great opportunity. We wish we could have come on the other side of it.”
Peterman lived in Northeast Florida for most of his childhood. He was brought in by his hometown team for a workout; but, Jacksonville did not select a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead, Buffalo selected him in the fifth round.
To keep warm on a day when temperatures were in the 50s, and the wind chill was 48 at kickoff, Peterman would hop up from the bench to throw with Taylor on the Jaguars’ third downs. It proved to be a good way to stay limber considering Jacksonville converted on only one of its first nine attempts on third down.
Of the 92 players in uniform for Sunday’s AFC Wildcard Game, Peterman was the only one from the 904.
“It was good to see family,” Peterman said. “I wish we could have got the win, obviously. There are a lot of good things to learn from.”