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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Temperatures in the high 90s became the perfect precursor to a red-hot matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams to kick off the 2022-23 NFL season.
Bills vs. Rams: the reigning champs versus the forecasted champs. The excitement was palpable for the debut of the NFL’s 103rd season.
Though not in the cleanest fashion, the Bills walked away the victor with a 31-10 win.
Despite missing veteran DE Shaq Lawson, the Bills’ defensive line managed to disrupt Matthew Stafford and thwart LA’s offense.
The Bills made a statement on the road as the defense sacked Stafford seven times.
Stafford completed 29-of-41 passes for 240 yards, 3 INTs and 1 TD, while Bills QB Josh Allen finished the game completing 26-of-31 passes for 297 yards, 2 INTs and 3 TDs.
The Bills’ QB was also the team’s leading rusher.
Reigning champ with a new home Von Miller made his homecoming apparent with the NFL’s first sack of the season.
Certified big man Jordan Phillips sacked Stafford in the second to keep the woes going for LA’s O-line.
With a still-green Joe Noteboom at left tackle and Rob Havenstein, the Rams will have to figure a way to keep strong offensive lines in the NFC West at bay.
Buffalo’s offense, led by new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, took a moment to find its footing.
After rookie running back and former Georgia Bulldogs RB James Cook put the ball on the ground for the season’s first (lost) fumble, the Bills came back to score the first TD of the season with a 26-yard touchdown to former UCF receiver Gabriel Davis.
A 41-yard field goal by Tyler Bass put the Bills up, 10-0 with 8:48 to go in the first half.
Rams’ first touchdown of the season looked familiar: Stafford to wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Thankfully for the Rams, Kupp was back to his old ways and helped put the Rams on the scoreboard — pulling off a toe-drag TD with a dime pass from Stafford — Rams down 7-10 after the score.
The reigning Triple-Crown wideout recorded 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Fans were rightfully expecting error-free football to start the year but were treated to a turnover fest by both teams.
The Rams defense got their first INT of the season when linebacker Terrell Lewis picked off Josh Allen to end the first quarter.
In his first game back since leaving LA for Cleveland, Troy Hill intercepted Josh Allen in the second quarter to give LA a shot at taking the lead before halftime. LA stuck with a 57-yarder by kicker Matt Gay to tie things at 10 heading into halftime.
One Ozzy Osbourne halftime show later, the Bills were back to business and expanded on their lead with a 7-yard TD to Isaiah McKenzie. Bills 17-10.
Facing third and goal from the fourth to start the final period, Allen scrambled for a four-yard touchdown to put the Bills up two scores and quiet the once-raucous SoFi.
Bills safety Jordan Poyer seemingly put the nail in the coffin with a pick on Stafford in the fourth.
That nailed coffin was then buried 12 feet underground.
With nine minutes left in the contest, Allen hit Stefon Diggs for a 53-yard touchdown to give Buffalo the 21-point advantage and secure the road win, 31-10.
McVay spoke with the media after the game and stated that the team will need to move forward accordingly after their “humbling experience.” He also took the fault for calling a poor game for his players, and was rightfully pressed about the absence of wideout Allen Robinson — a big-time off-season acquisition for the Rams that only accounted for one catch and 12 receiving yards of the offense’s output.
“I take a lot of pride in that … I gotta do better. There’s a lot of decisions I made that I felt didn’t put our players in good enough spots,” McVay said. “This was a humbling experience, but we’re gonna stay connected. We’re gonna all look inward, we’re gonna done a better job going forward.”
It’s too early in the season (Day 1, technically) to overreact to the Rams’ offense — though Thursday did showcase an apparent lack of depth protecting Stafford with the O-line. And that can bear major ramifications for a team relying on its oft-injured QB.
For now, the reigning-champion Rams will have to work around it.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela
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