Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott threw a curve ball of sorts when he announced a quarterback change on Wednesday. After denying a controversy at the position in the wake of Sunday’s 47-10 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, McDermott changed his tone in benching Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman ahead of Sunday’s road game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

It comes with the Bills in the midst of a two-game losing streak defined by inconsistent play from Taylor. Though he finished with 285 yards and accounted for three touchdowns against the New York Jets in week nine, most of his production came in garbage time. Then on Sunday, he turned in one of the worst performances from an NFL starting quarterback in 2017. Among those who’ve thrown at least 18 passes in a game, only three (Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, DeShone Kizer) finished with worse than Taylor’s 33.6 passer rating against the Saints.

Peterman relieved Taylor on the final two offensive possessions on Sunday. In his first regular season action, he showed poise and the ability to make decisive throws downfield albeit in a fairly meaningless game state. The Pittsburgh product threw two fewer passes than Taylor yet edged him out 79-56 in passing yards. He also added a touchdown toss to tight end Nick O’Leary, ending the game with the highest Total QBR (95.1) of any NFL quarterback with a minimum of 10 passes attempted this season.

Gaining the trust of the coaching staff to the extent they believe he’s ready to make his first career NFL start isn’t something Peterman’s taking lightly. After the initial euphoria associated with winning the job, he knows it’s now time to get to work.

“(It was) very emotional, obviously, at first,” Peterman told John Murphy on his radio show on Wednesday. “But, you know, it kind of quickly transitioned (to) the work mentality and me getting ready to go. And, again, I’ve got to earn it every day. So that’s my focus now, my focus (on) Sunday, just earning it.”

It’s that mindset which played a significant role in McDermott’s decision. With Buffalo currently in the sixth and final playoff spot out of the AFC, making a switch at quarterback doesn’t come without having the utmost confidence in the player replacing your incumbent starter. That’s exactly the sentiment the Bills head coach is exuding.

“I’ve been impressed with the maturity from Nathan,” McDermott emphasized to the media on Wednesday. “I’m comfortable making a calculated risk to try and get us where we need to go.”

From a short-term standpoint, that destination carries with it more poignance among the Bills fanbase than others in the league. It’s not too surprising when taking into consideration Buffalo’s current postseason drought which dates back to 1999, the longest such streak in North American professional sports. Fans are tired of hearing about it. And despite the current skid, its cessation remains tangible given the Bills position in the standings.

Going with Peterman at this point undoubtedly carries with it a modicum of uncertainty. Thrust into the spotlight not only on the road, but in a game out west, has all the makings of a baptism by fire. The Bills are a combined 1-8 in west coast road games since 2005. And though they face a 3-6 team on a two-game losing streak of their own, the Chargers boast a phenomenal pass rush that could cause Peterman problems. It includes two dynamic edge defenders in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.

That reality isn’t lost on Peterman. He’s well-aware that his debut will come against a defense with 29 sacks in 2017, second to only the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ingram and Bosa are as good as it gets in the league when it comes to harassing opposing quarterbacks. Case in point: they currently have the two highest pass rush grades from Pro Football Focus.

Not only that, but the secondary is full of playmakers, including fourth-year safety Tre Boston. Only three NFL players have more than his three interceptions this season. Overall, their four primary starters at defensive back, including Boston, Trevor Williams, Adrian Phillips and Casey Hayward, have a combined six picks and 27 pass breakups.

“They’re very talented on defense,” Peterman noted. “Those two edges are very good players. And then, you know, on the back end they’re very talented (and) very aggressive. They fly around and make plays.”

In a way, Peterman’s experiences in college have him ready to take the bull by the horns. A highly touted pro-style prospect out of high school, he initially committed to Tennessee. But he broke his hand as a redshirt freshman and eventually lost out to Joshua Dobbs as Vols starter. He then made the move to Pittsburgh as a grad transfer, finishing with a 14-10 record in his 24 starts. It included a five touchdown outing in an upset of eventual national champion Clemson last year.

“I went through some tough things in college,” Peterman stated. “I think I’ve been through the highs and lows and, you know, that’s how life goes. And so I think I’m ready for both and ready to just attack it with a level head.”

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