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Takeaways: Bills stake their claim as best team in NFL with big opening win

The Buffalo Bills are complete

The Buffalo Bills tagged the Los Angeles Rams on the NFL’s opening night, winning the game 31-10 to prove they have a great defense to pair with their transcendent offense. With that in mind, here are my takeaways from the 1-0 start for the Bills.

Bills’ defensive line is reborn

We knew the Bills’ young cornerbacks were going to need some help, and boy did they get it. The Bills had seven sacks in the game, and that just scratches the surface of the impact of the defensive line. At least one sure-fire Rams first down was stopped by a great pressure and Jordan Poyer’s interception was at least partially due to a great A.J. Epenesa pass rush. Boogie Basham deflected a Matthew Stafford pass to himself for the nail-in-the-coffin interception and Greg Rousseau almost added one late, to boot. A multitude of Bills recorded their first sacks of the season Thursday night; Von Miller (2), Jordan Phillips and A.J. Epenesa (1.5), and Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham (1) all brought down Matthew Stafford. It was a complete effort by the defensive line that lost DT Ed Oliver early to an ankle/foot injury. Hopefully he’ll be back soon and they can continue their dominance. It’s the most sacks in a Buffalo season opener since at least 1988. Oh yeah, the Bills didn’t blitz a single time in the game.

Josh Allen locked in

Josh Allen had one bad throw in the game, and it was picked by the Rams in the two-minute drill, allowing them to tie the game at the half. He had a “meh” throw that led to Tyler Bass’s first field goal of the game. Outside of that, he was right back where he was to end 2021. Von Miller told Bills fans to “Burn It Down” when what he really did was light Allen on fire. Again. The dude is the real deal and it’s so much fun to watch. To open the fourth quarter, he made the perfect read and threw to Gabe Davis one-on-one for a big gain. He converted that possession for six by running through perennial All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner to get to the goal line. He finished 26-of-31 for 292 yards and three passing TDs along with leading the team in rushing—rushing nine times for 57 yards and the aforementioned TD. He deserves all the praise he receives.

Credit to Ken Dorsey

The Bills got a lot of receivers involved from the start, making it to seven pass-catchers very early. They kept Allen’s drops short to limit Aaron Donald, and the offensive line held up on the whole. They moved Stefon Diggs to the slot on some plays early to get him some big plays, too, and he finished with big stats on eight catches for 122 yards and a TD. Dorsey proved himself in his first game as offensive coordinator. He’ll have to keep adjusting, but it’s a good start.

Self-inflicted wounds keep game close at halftime

In the first half, the Bills had a turnover when Isaiah McKenzie let the ball bounce off his pads and get intercepted by the Rams while Buffalo was in scoring territory. On their next drive, James Cook fumbled while the Bills were deep in their own territory. (He was bailed out by the defense.) After going up 10-0, Tyler Bass kicked it out of bounds to give LA the ball at their own 40, which they converted into points. Even Allen’s interception at the end of the first half was either a late throw by the QB or Jamison Crowder stopped running prematurely, and it cost Buffalo a chance to put away the game early. It was the first time since 2019 that the Bills had three first-half turnovers. It didn’t impact them tonight, but it’s something to watch in the future.

Mini-bye coming up

The Bills don’t play again until September 19. They have a min-bye early in the season before they host the Tennessee Titans. Hopefully Ed Oliver and the rest of the team can heal up before their next contest. (They have another Thursday to Sunday layover entering December, when they play on Thursday night following Thanksgiving before a December 11 game.)

Sam Martin, elite holder

The Bills signed a punter last week, but you might not know that since he didn’t punt in Week 1. Instead, he was an elite holder for Tyler Bass’s field goal and extra points. That’s what Josh Allen has been saying he wanted.