The Buffalo Bills have missed enough playoff appearances in recent years to know the length of the season, and the opening doesn’t mean much in January.
Super Bowl winners feel vindicated in their championship aspirations after they stormed their home stadium and destroyed the NFL’s flag-raising ceremony on opening night.
Josh Allen passed for 297 yards on four touchdowns, Miller had two of the Buffaloes’ seven sacks, and the Bills beat Los Angeles 31-10 on Thursday night to seal the Rams’ crown as an open contender.
Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie and Stefon Diggs caught TD passes as the two-time AFC East champions fended off four turnovers to end their 103rd NFL season and escape with a win in the Rams’ home opener nearly seven months ago.
Allen went 26-for-31 despite two interceptions. He also caught the ball with 13:27 to play and scampered 56 yards for a 4-yard TD.
The star quarterback took his share of hits, but he also gave up and it was a solid average, with Buffalo’s offence under new coordinator Ken Dorsey largely dominating the champion. The bid went 10-for-9 on third down and racked up 413 total yards, eventually pulling three and a half turnovers after the first stop.
Matthew Stafford passed for 240 yards with one TD and three interceptions on the night for the Rams, who lost the season opener and fell below .500 for the first time in six seasons coach McCann McVay’s.
“We’re not ready to go. That’s mine. There were a lot of decisions that didn’t put us in the best position to be successful. It was a humbling night.”
The team’s seven sacks were the most allowed during McVay’s tenure with the Rams, who lost two offensive tackles last year and tried to replace him inside. Miller came on but contributed just one on a night when Buffalo didn’t have to blitz once to keep Stafford in check.
Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp had 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, but the Rams quickly went downhill on the night. Los Angeles couldn’t keep up with Allen’s creative play or the Union’s rush, and the only major addition to the offence was receiver Allen Robinson, who hit two targets.
Los Angeles has drawn 17-10 after 3 parts, but Buffalo pulled away with two long TD drives fast in the 4th. Since November 2019, the Rams have ended their 89th consecutive half with even points in the second half.
Miller made an immediate impact in his debut for the Bills, who moved away from the Rams after getting a ring in L.A. half a season ago. But that’s just part of the defence that passed up only 177 yards on Los Angeles’ final, silly drive.
Aaron Donald made his 99th career sack in the first half, but the seven-time All-Pro was just two games out as the Rams became just the second defending champion and lost its first postseason opener in 10 years. He also became the second most in league history for Super Bowl winners to start the following season; Baltimore lost to Denver in 2013 by 22 points.
After trailing 10-0 despite two turnovers, in Los Angeles’ fourth drive, Kupp made a spectacular TD catch with three minutes left before halftime. After Allen’s second interception, Matt Guy hit a 57-yard field goal to pull the Rams even at halftime.
Protection offers. Much of the talk is about how the young cornerbacks of the Union could struggle. But offensive linemen Kair Elam and Christian Benford did well, while Dane Jackson was the pick. As hard as they tried, the Rams couldn’t account for two good looks for most of the night. In terms of big games, Stafford and McCoy seemed frustrated, and chances were few and far between. Union defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier technically works with an old-school mentality: the offence runs eight, 10, and 12 plays down the field. Maybe mistakes will happen. That ideology paid off in a big way Thursday. The Bills got good pressure from Von Miller and what looked to be a deeper defensive line all night long. The Rams were helped by poor defence and had only one drive of 38 yards in the first 55 minutes of the game. This is it
Injuries that occurred
Bills DL Ed Oliver injured his ankle in the first half and tried to play on it, but could not do much. Rams RB Kyren Williams injured his ankle in the first minute. The Rams were without WR Van Jefferson, who had knee surgery early in training camp after starting 21 games last season.