If there was any doubt about the Buffalo Bills’ aspirations this season, they laid out an early marker on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Bills emphatically beat the reigning Super Bowl champions, the LA Rams, 31-10 in their home stadium in the season opener to set out their stall – Super Bowl or bust.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw three touchdowns, and ran for another, as they used a big second half to run away from the stuttering Rams.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finished with 122 receiving yards and one touchdown, with Gabe Davis and Isaiah McKenzie also catching touchdown passes.
While the Bills offense hummed, it was actually Buffalo defense which stole the show.
They intercepted Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford three times as well as hitting him 15 times, including seven sacks.
It was a particularly meaningful victory for Bills linebacker Von Miller who, after winning the Super Bowl last year with the Rams, signed for the Bills in the offseason. Miller finished Thursday’s win with two sacks and three tackles for a loss.
According to the NFL, the 21-point loss by the Rams was the second-largest margin of defeat ever for a defending Super Bowl champion, just one point fewer than the Baltimore Ravens’ 22-point loss against the Denver Broncos in 2013 in what was Peyton Manning’s first game with the Broncos.
And despite the emphatic win, Diggs said the team isn’t getting too ahead of themselves just yet, pointing to mistakes made – including two lost fumbles – as reasons to remain focused.
“I wouldn’t really say it was a signature win. I would say it was the first game,” Diggs said afterwards. “Because people win their first game and can lose every last one of them after that.
“So try not to ride that wave. We did some good things, we had four turnovers. Four turnovers can cost you the game. Luckily, our defense, they stepped up, they played a hell of a game. We got to continue to get better on offense. We did some good things but got to get back in the lab.”
Seven months after the last NFL action, the league is finally back. And seven months after winning February’s Super Bowl, the Rams returned.
As is tradition for the reigning champions, the players and the fans were able to enjoy a moment to celebrate last season’s title success, seeing their commemorative championship banner lifted into the rafters of SoFi Stadium.
However, despite the positive atmosphere in the stadium, it was the traveling side who set the tone from minute one.
An 11-play, 75-yard, five-minute drive from the Buffalo offense took the wind out of the stadium as Davis walked into the end zone.
Although the scores were tied at half time – Stafford connecting with his star receiver Cooper Kupp to level the game – the second half was a more one-sided affair.
Three straight touchdowns on three straight possessions for the Bills, with the Rams’ offense struggling to move the ball, built up an emphatic lead.
Kupp, coming off a historic triple crown season last year – leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns – finished with an impressive stat line, ending with 13 receptions and 128 yards as well as the touchdown, but it wasn’t enough for the subdued Rams.
Afterwards, Rams head coach Sean McVay – who signed a contract extension along with general manager Les Snead in the hours beforehand – took responsibility for the flat performance.
“We weren’t ready to go, I take a lot of pride in that, and that’s on me,” McVay told reporters.
“I’ve got to do better, there were a lot of decisions that I made that I felt like didn’t put our players in good enough spots. This was a humbling experience, but we’re going to stay connected, we’re going to look inward, we’re going to do a better job of moving forward, but you give credit to the Bills, and then we’ve got to understand that we’ve got to have that mindset and mentality to be able to move forward accordingly.”