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Buffalo Bills 31, Los Angeles Rams 10: Rapid recap and notes

A phenomenal win to start the season

The Buffalo Bills kicked off the 2022 NFL season, and their Super Bowl campaign, with an emphatic win over the defending champion Los Angeles Rams—a 31-10 victory that sent a clear message to the rest of the league. Josh Allen played like Superman again, we saw all of the offseason investment into defensive linemen (especially Von Miller) pay massive dividends, and the Bills scored 21 unanswered points after halftime to pull away for the win.

The Bills started this game like they were still trading blows with the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s AFC playoffs. Allen was 5-for-5 passing, the running game tacked on 17 yards on four carries, and their opening drive wrapped up with a 3rd-&-1 play that looked like a run and turned into a cakewalk of a 26-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis.

The defense forced a three and out, and Buffalo went right back to action with the ball, moving 62 yards on seven plays. On the eighth, Allen’s pass bounced out of Isaiah McKenzie’s hands and into the arms of a Rams defender for an interception. The Bills forced another three and out, but only two plays later, rookie running back James Cook coughed up the football on his first career carry. But the turnover party wasn’t over yet: two plays later, Matthew Stafford sailed a pass right to the zone where Dane Jackson was prowling, and he hauled in a pick to give the ball back to his team.

The Bills put together an eight-play, 45-yard field goal drive to take a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Unfortunately, Tyler Bass angled his kickoff too far, leading to a penalty and excellent field position for LA’s next drive. The Rams finally found their offensive footing with an 11-play, 60-yard TD drive to make up some ground. Buffalo had three timeouts and three minutes to try and score more points, but the drive was cut short when Allen threw his second pick of the night, just a bad attempt to link up with Jamison Crowder on a deep crossing route.

The Rams practically started the ensuing drive in field goal position, but the Bills made them work for it. Los Angeles barely managed to gain six yards over the course of eight plays. Too bad that was enough to make the difference for a 57-yard field goal that tied the game at halftime.

The third quarter couldn’t have gone much better for the Bills. They forced a three and out as Ozzy Osborne’s halftime concert was still echoing around the stadium, and with the benefit of 26 rushing yards from Devin Singletary and 15 by Allen, they were on the cusp of the red zone. Allen hit on three straight passes—the final one a touchdown on a stutter-stepping slant by Isaiah McKenzie. The Rams fired back with a drive that featured a 23-yard pass to Cooper Kupp, but successive big plays by Tremaine Edmunds and Von Miller helped to set up another punt.

Buffalo’s next drive started at their own six after a false-start penalty on the first play, but they nickeled-and-dimed their way out of danger to midfield. From there, Allen beat the blitz with a sensational deep pass to Gabriel Davis for a 47-yard gain. A few plays later, Allen had his first rushing touchdown of the year and the Bills had a 24-10 lead.

The good news wasn’t close to over, even into the fourth quarter. On LA’s next drive, Stafford sailed a deep pass that a Bills defender tipped, and (who else but) Jordan Poyer dove for the ball and came up with another interception. Three plays later, Allen uncorked another deep ball to a wide-open Stefon Diggs. It was underthrown, but Diggs was so clear that he could turn around, fall down catching the football, and roll into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown. With that flourish, the Bills extended their lead to 31-10.

With a 21-point margin and nine minutes left in the game, the Rams had one more shot to try a comeback. But Stafford had a pass tipped at the line and picked off by Boogie Basham, and that snuffed out the flame.

The Bills could not have started their season much better than this: heading west to take on last year’s champions, and crushing them in the same fashion they were doing to the New York Jets and the Houston Texans in 2021. At 1-0, the Bills have the best record in the NFL. Who’s already prepared to watch the next game?

Injury report

  • Ed Oliver injured his ankle in the first half. He was able to return to action in the second half of the game, but was definitely laboring at times. Jordan Phillips stepped into the lineup to replace him.
  • Reggie Gilliam was attended by trainers in the first half, but returned to the lineup to play out the remainder of the game.
  • Rodger Saffold was poked in the eye near the end of the third quarter. To save a time out, the Bills replaced him with Greg Van Roten until he was good to go again.

Quick hits

  • The Von Miller effect in action: Buffalo took down Matthew Stafford seven times tonight. Miller had two, but young edge rushers Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, and A.J. Epenesa contributed 3.5 sacks to the effort.
  • Basham added an interception to his ledger late in the fourth quarter, a heads-up play where he tipped a pass at the line and caught it out of the air.
  • A shoutout goes to Jordan Phillips, whose return to the Bills saw him notching 1.5 sacks and bringing all the energy he was known for on his previous stint.
  • Josh Allen was absolutely sensational tonight. Completed 84% of his passes, threw 3 TDs, added 56 rushing yards and a rushing TD.
  • Throws targeting Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis tonight: 14 targets, 12 catches, 210 yards, 2 TDs, perfect passer rating.
  • Major developments on the rookie cornerback situation, as sixth-round pick Christian Benford actually earned the starting job over first rounder Kaiir Elam. The Bills rotated both players through the game, but it speaks to the respect Benford earned from the coaching staff.
  • Benford finished the night strong with an end zone pass breakup to preserve the victory margin.
  • It was a night to forget for second-round pick James Cook, whose only carry gained two yards and ended with a lost fumble. The team worked him into a few snaps after that, but the rumors of Buffalo’s “secret weapon” were premature.
  • There wasn’t much to celebrate for Zack Moss either, aside from his rather substantial role in the offensive lineup. He touched the ball 12 times (six runs and six catches) but only gained 36 yards and lost a fumble out of that opportunity.
  • On the other hand, Devin Singletary seemed ready and willing to be the team’s lead back again. His eight carries gained 48 yards (6.0 YPC), and he added 14 yards on two catches.
  • You won’t see him showing up on the stat sheet, but nose tackle Tim Settle was assaulting some offensive linemen tonight. He crushed the pocket time and again.
  • Unspoken tonight: any comments about former Bills punter Matt Araiza. There wasn’t exactly an opportunity to bring up the subject, since the Bills didn’t punt tonight.

Next week

The Bills have a mini-bye week ahead of them, thanks to their Thursday night debut. They don’t play again until Monday Night Football, 11 days from now, when they’ll battle the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans were 12-5 last year, winning the AFC South. They eked out a 34-31 win against the Bills when Josh Allen couldn’t find any room for a QB sneak to convert a first down.