If anyone wondered why the Buffalo Bills were Super Bowl favorites coming into Thursday night’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, well, they should have plenty of closure after the Bills blew the doors off SoFi Stadium with a 31-10 win.
The game was tied, 10-10, at halftime, but a 21-0 run by the Bills cemented their first win of the season as Josh Allen and co. stole the show from the hometown stars.
As with every game, there was both good and bad. Fortunately, in this case, there was a whole lot more good than bad for the Bills.
Let’s dive in and see who’s stock is up and who’s is down after opening night.
OLB Von Miller
This is about as obvious as it can get, but it would be insane to start this off with anyone but Miller.
Yes, even Josh Allen is included in the previous statement.
Sure, Allen is the leading MVP candidate in most circles, but it was the addition of Miller that was discussed throughout the majority of the Bills’ offseason. Many looked to him as the missing piece to a Super Bowl appearance and many also believe he would’ve prevented the “13 seconds” catastrophe against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs.
Miller proved to be everything the Bills thought he’d be and more. He was a terror all night long and contributed a team-leading 2.0 sacks and three tackles for loss. He was second on the team with two quarterback hits, as well.
It wasn’t just Miller’s play that made a big difference. His presence, alone, freed up other guys to win their 1-on-1s, which was a major key in the team’s 22 combined sacks and quarterback hits.
QB Josh Allen
Allen looked every bit the part of an MVP candidate outside of the throw that led to Troy Hill’s interception.
Allen even made NFL history, being the first player to accumulate at least 250 passing yards, 50 rushing yards, three passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and an 80% completion rate during a win.
So far, so good for arguably the best quarterback in the NFL.
A lot of people -myself included- were wondering how the Bills secondary would look over the first few games without Tre’Davious White.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Bills Mafia certainly had to like what they saw against the Rams. The quartet of Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson, Christian Benford, and Kaiir Elam all held their own against a talented Rams passing attack.
Cooper Kupp finished with 13 receptions for 128-yards and a touchdown, but he’s always going to get his numbers, no matter who’s covering him. The rest of the team, however, caught a combined 16 balls for 112-yards and zero touchdowns. That included a one-catch, 12-yard night for Allen Robinson, who is supposed to be a huge addition for the Rams.
Jackson had one of Stafford’s three interceptions on the night, which added a layer of playmaking ability to the room.
If this secondary can play like this on a consistent basis then no one is going to score against the Bills defense.
Honorary mention: Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, wide receiver Gabriel Davis
RB James Cook
Another obvious pick, but it needs to be mentioned.
Cook’s night was highlighted by a really bad fumble, which is obviously not what you want to see from one of your top draft picks.
Cook played just three snaps in this game, as a result. Fortunately, Zack Moss was able to provide solid depth for Devin Singletary.
It remains to be seen how involved Cook will be moving forward, but his teammates have his back.
“Definitely let him know … that we got your back. S— happens. It’s football, know what I’m saying,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said regarding Cook after the game. “We had … picks, we had fumbles – stuff that was more self-inflicted. And nobody’s perfect.
“When that play happened, you kinda saw our offense [react] like ‘Damn’ and I just ran on the field like, ‘Chin up, everybody. Chin up. Right now.’ It’s very pivotal [to] feed off one another … As a young guy, things are going to happen. Hopefully he learns from it and continues to grow from it. I believe in him, 100%.”
Bills’ ball security
It wasn’t just Cook who had issues with ball security on Thursday night. Both Zack Moss and Isaiah McKenzie coughed the ball up and Allen made an ill-advised throw that resulted in his second interception (technically his first, actually) of the night.
The Bills have to clean this up. They are one of the 3-4 teams in the NFL where the phrase “only they can beat themselves” applies. That’s an honor to have and it’s a characteristic that can lead to championships if it’s fully embraced.
This game wouldn’t have been close at even halftime if it weren’t for the bad turnovers. The Bills probably would’ve won by 31 without them.
Turnovers are the quickest way to lose games in the NFL. Especially in the postseason.
If the Bills want 2022 to be the season it’s supposed to be, they need to squash this issue and they need to squash it, fast.
Featured image via Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports