We’re one game into the NFL season, and we already have our first statement win as the Buffalo Bills traveled to Los Angeles and beat the defending Super Bowl champion Rams 31-10.
However, it wasn’t the Bills’ offense that made the biggest statement. Sure, they were good, gaining 413 yards and putting up 31 points. However, it was the defense that turned heads. They limited the Rams to 243 total yards and 3.7 yards per play. They created three turnovers and sacked Matthew Stafford seven times.
It started right from the beginning. On the Rams’ third play of the game, Stafford dropped back to pass and Von Miller bull rushed left tackle Joe Noteboom into Stafford’s face for the sack. Later in the half, Miller dropped Cooper Kupp for a loss to hold the Rams to a field goal.
On the day, Miller had four tackles, three tackles for a loss, and two sacks. It’s early, but he seems to be worth every penny that the Bills spent in the offseason.
However, it wasn’t just Von Miller. The entire Bills defensive line looks ferocious early on. New additions DaQuon Jones and Jordan Phillips pushed the pocket from the middle, and Greg Rousseau and Ed Oliver continued their growth as impact players on the line. (Before Oliver left the game with an ankle injury)
In total, the Bills sacked Stafford seven times but had 15 quarterback hits and also deflected four passes at the line of scrimmage.
The Rams tried to change gears and run the ball too, but that also didn’t work. The Bills knew the run defense had been a weakness for them, so they went out this offseason and signed defensive tackles Jones, Tim Settle, and Phillips. The new look defensive line held the Rams to just 52 rushing yards on 18 carries, just 2,9 yards per carry.
“We gonna celebrate tonight,” said Miller after the game. “We gonna make the plane do back flips, and then tomorrow digest what happened tonight and then move forward.”
While the Bills’ defense flourished, the offense also exploded out of the gates with a nine-play, 75 yards touchdown drive. Josh Allen was methodical, working the quick-passing game to perfection. He hit four different receivers on the drive, including two running backs, before executing a beautiful play fake on 3rd and short to hit Gabriel Davis for a 26-yard touchdown.
After the defense forced a Rams punt, the offense was driving again. In seven plays, the Bills had marched 62 yards. Josh Allen completed his first ten passes of the game and had done so using seven different receivers. The team looked poised to take a 14-0 lead on the defending Super Bowl champions.
But then a perfectly thrown ball from Allen bounced out of the hands of slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie. As McKenzie was working to corral it, Terrell Lewis dove in to secure the interception.
The Bills’ defense would force another punt, but the sloppiness had already invaded.
It was the same sloppiness that showed up in Week 1 last year, when Sean McDermott’s squad came out flat in week one against the Steelers, losing 23-16. Fans were preparing for more of the same after rookie James Cook fumbled his first carry on the team’s next drive.
But it didn’t stop there.
The defense would secure an interception on a terrible pass from Matthew Stafford, and the offense would drive down for another field goal, but then Tyler Bass hit the kickoff out of bounds, giving the Rams the ball on the 40-yard line.
When you give good teams those opportunities, they capitalize, and the Rams use a beautiful toe-tapping catch from Cooper Kupp to cut the lead to 10-7.
On the next Bills’ possession, Josh Allen threw behind Jamison Crowder, and Troy Hill jumped it for another interception. It was the Bills’ third turnover of the night, and the Rams would drive down to tie the game at 10 going into the half.
Buffalo had gained 6 yards per play to just 3.4 for Los Angeles. Buffalo had 10 first downs to Los Angeles’ 7. Buffalo had 179 yards to Los Angeles’ 106, but Buffalo had three costly turnovers to just one for Los Angeles. The sloppiness had kept Los Angeles in the game.
However, Buffalo came out of the half intent on taking the Rams out of the game in a hurry.
They flat-out dominated the Rams in the second half of the game. Not only did they outscore Los Angeles 21-0, but they outgained them 234 to 137. They notched four sacks in the second half and intercepted Matthew Stafford two more times.
In truth, the Rams never even came close to threatening. The Bills covered the kickoff that began the half beautifully, dropping the Rams inside their own 20-yard-line. They then forced the Rams into a three-and-out punt.
The first five plays of the Bills’ first drive were runs, using Devin Singeltary and Josh Allen to work the ball down the field and soak up the clock before Allen found McKenzie on a seven-yard slant route for a touchdown.
It was a bit of redemption for the Bills’ offense and for McKenzie as well, who hadn’t touched the ball since the interception in the first half.
From that point on, it was really a one-sided game. The Bills’ defense continued to dominate the defending Super Bowl champions. 2020 2nd-round pick AJ Epenesa got in Matthew Stafford’s face, forcing a high throw to Cooper Kupp that ended in a tipped pass and a Jordan Poyer interception. Then 2021 second-round pick Boogie Basham tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage and secured the interception himself.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills’ offense continued to build an insurmountable lead.
They continued their shift into more of a power running style. Then kept fullback Reggie Gilliam on the field a lot and ran behind left tackle Dion Dawkins and new left guard Roger Saffold. They gained consistent chunks of yards and then used the quick passing game to convert on third down.
Then when the Rams adjusted, the Bills attacked deep. Josh Allen hit Gabe Davis for 47 yards to set up his own rushing touchdown and then later hit Stefon Diggs for a 53-yard touchdown that made the game 31-10.
— NFL (@NFL) September 9, 2022
It was a perfect indication that new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey would be able to adapt his offensive philosophy based on the opponent and the opportunity in front of him. He called a tremendous game and put his players in positions to succeed all night long.
Josh Allen finished 26-31 for 297 yards and three touchdowns (with two interceptions) while adding 56 yards rushing and another touchdown. Stefon Diggs finished with eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown, while Gabe Davis had 88 yards and a touchdown on four catches and Devin Singletary gained 48 hard yards on just eight carries.
However, the offense was not flawless.
With the ball, up 31-10, and under seven minutes to play Zack Moss fumbled the ball fighting for extra yards. It was the fourth turnover for the Buffalo Bills on the day. It’s a sloppiness that will undoubtedly infuriate head coach Sean McDermott and one that could hold the Bills back from their ultimate goal of a Super Bowl championship unless they can clean it up.
On the other hand, they turned the ball over four times, hit a kick-off out of bounds, and still went on the road and beat the defending Super Champions handily. There are kinks to iron out, but the Buffalo Bills looked every bit the title contender in their first game.