1 – D-line dominates
There was a heavy investment in Buffalo's defensive line this past offseason. Not only did the Bills sign prized free agent Von Miller, but they also reeled in three big, athletic defensive tackles in DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips and Tim Settle. On Thursday night, they along with a trio of young edge rushers dominated the line of scrimmage and rendered the Rams' offense powerless.
In a game where perennial first team All-Pro Aaron Donald and Rams' big name free agent Bobby Wagner each logged a sack apiece, the Bills' defensive line racked up seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits as Matthew Stafford could not develop any rhythm in the passing game.
The seven sacks were the most ever recorded by the Bills in a season opener.
Von Miller and Jordan Phillips led the charge for Buffalo's pass rush. Miller had a pair of sacks with two quarterback hits, which now gives him 10 sacks in 10 career season openers. Meanwhile Phillips notched a sack and a half and three quarterback hits, marking the third multi-sack game in his career, all of which have come with the Bills.
Everybody balled out," said Miller. "We've got a great unit and we've got a great coaching staff as well. Coach (Leslie) Frazier, you know, Coach (Eric) Washington, they do a good job getting us ready to go. I think everybody on the line had a sack today and we had three interceptions. So, it was it was a great day."
2021 draft classmates Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham logged a sack each. Basham also tipped a pass and then intercepted it for one of Buffalo's three takeaways on the night. And AJ Epenesa had one and a half sacks with four quarterback hits.
"You've got to be able to get there with four and we were able to do that," said head coach Sean McDermott of the pass rush putting heat on the quarterback. "So, I thought it was a great first game for those guys. I thought they did a great job in the run game and then to be able to get after the quarterback like we did down the stretch in particular in the second half I thought was effective"
The sack opportunities were created by Buffalo's ability to stop the run on first down. The Rams rushing attack managed just 52 yards on 18 carries for a 2.9 average.
"Our front four was absolutely just eating," said Jordan Poyer. "We knew on the back end if we just gave them an extra half second and get Stafford to blink, they were going to get there, so they did a hell of a job. Obviously, the addition of Von just makes that group so much better. Greg, Tim (Settle), Jordan Phillips all those men, they just work extremely hard at their craft, and it makes our job easier on the back end."
The Bills became the first team ever to not punt, record three interceptions and seven or more sacks in a single game.
2 – Davis and Diggs deliver back breaking plays
Three first-half turnovers were largely responsible for keeping the game close in the first half as both teams went to the locker room tied at 10. When Buffalo came out in the second half however, they were determined to regain their early 10-point lead and put the game away.
After staging an eight-play, 58-yard scoring drive capped by an Isaiah McKenzie seven-yard touchdown reception to go up 17-10, Josh Allen and Gabe Davis came out of a timeout on 3rd-and-7 on their next possession and hooked up for a 47-yard pass play to set up a first-and-goal situation at the Rams' six-yard line. Three plays later Josh Allen took a four-yard run into the end zone and suddenly the Bills were up two scores (24-10).
One possession later, Allen scrambled out of the pocket after drawing up a play on the fly in the huddle and ripped a 53-yard bomb to Stefon Diggs, who got behind Jalen Ramsey on the play and fell into the end zone for the last touchdown of the night to put the game away.
"We felt like their corners were really looking in at the quarterback and Diggs just ran a heck of a route," said Josh Allen. "The offensive line protected and just gave him a chance and he went there and made a play for us."
"I just did what Josh told me to do," said Diggs of the play. "He just told me to run. That actually wasn't even an original play. Josh sees a lot of things at the quarterback position that you might not see at the receiver position. So, one thing I learned is to listen to your quarterback."
The two plays by Davis and Diggs, who combined for 12 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns on the night, served as back breakers for the Rams, who never responded.
"It's great when there's a time to put a team away and they're putting the trust in you to make the play and you make it," said Davis. "There's nothing better than that. So, I was glad I was able to be put in that position."
3 – Allen spreads the wealth
The Bills offense had to be patient in the early stages of the game as the Los Angeles defense made certain not to give up any big plays. Josh Allen and the offensive unit stayed patient and took the underneath plays that the Rams were giving them. That patience paid off as they staged an opening nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the scoring.
As the game wore on Allen made frequent use of his backs with dump off passes to alleviate pressure and keep the offense in manageable down and distance. As a result, just about every receiving target on the roster got involved in the passing game.
Allen targeted seven different teammates in the game and had just five incompletions on 31 pass attempts. His 83.9 percent completion rate set a new single-game club record.
"We knew coming in we had to be efficient offensively," said McDermott. "In part because of what Aaron (Donald) does and how quickly he can get to your quarterback. So, if you hold the ball too long back there, he's going to show up or somebody else is going to show up. I just thought we did a good job taking what they gave us. Josh was very patient, and the receivers were running crisp routes."
Stefon Diggs was instrumental in converting some early third downs to keep drives alive. Allen targeted him a team-high six times in the first half for 62 yards, and it helped to create opportunities for the other members of the receiving corps.
"We've got a good five," said Diggs. "And we've even got some guys that are not even playing that also could contribute if we needed to. We've got some guys that can make a lot of plays. Isaiah Mackenzie stepped up. Jamison Crowder showed you what he could do. Gabe Davis continues to show you why he is one of the best wideouts around. But something that I look forward to as a receiver and as a leader on his team – I feel my job is to get things started. Get the quarterback comfortable opening up things for the other guys. And it's getting to the point where they get me open too, so all works hand in hand."
The efficiency was reflected in the team's 90 percent conversion rate on third down as they converted nine of their 10 opportunities in the game.