Rams begin Super Bowl title defense with blowout loss to Bills

The Rams, tipsy after their Super Bowl win last February, announced to the world their desire and intention to “roll it back.”

Seven months later, after a 31-10 season opener loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday night at SoFi Stadium, here’s the early, uninspiring synopsis:

The Rams allowed Bills quarterback Josh Allen to walk through — and fake — a defense that includes three possible future Hall of Famers. Allen walked for three touchdowns and rushed for one.

Former Rams edge rusher Von Miller and the Bills defensive line ran right over the Rams offensive line, firing quarterback Matthew Stafford seven times. Forget the condition of Stafford’s frequently dissected right elbow. It’s the rest of his 34-year-old body that will be aching after absorbing a blow and intercepting three passes.

The Bills tied Rams coach Sean McVay’s season-opening wins at five. None of the Rams’ first opponents in those games ended with more than six wins. The Bills are one of the favorites to emerge from the AFC, ending the franchise’s long history of Super Bowl frustration.

On a night when the Rams unveiled a Super Bowl banner, they put on anything but a banner performance in front of a crowd of 73,846.

“We weren’t ready to go,” McVay said, adding, “It was a humbling experience.”

It was the second-worst loss by a reigning Super Bowl champion since the league presented it in the first game of the season in 2004.

“Obviously that wasn’t the way you want to come out and start a season,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said, adding, “It’s a game so everyone wants to pretend the season is over but we have 16 games left.” .”

It’s far too early to diagnose the Rams as suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, but McVay and his staff must quickly find a pick-me-up as the Rams move forward to play one of the toughest game schedules in the league.

“It’s too early to say,” McVay said when asked if he saw any signs of a Super Bowl hangover. “We will have an opportunity to respond.”

Bills running back Devin Singletary is gaining yards as Rams cornerback Troy Hill brings him down.

Bills running back Devin Singletary is gaining yards as Rams cornerback Troy Hill brings him down. Singletary averaged six yards on eight rushes.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams have 10 days to recover and prepare for the Atlanta Falcons, a team with a far lower cap and far fewer traveling fans than the Bills, who went into the game as a 2 1/2 point favorite.

Because of their mostly blue jerseys, Bill’s Mafia fans weren’t as visually conspicuous as the San Francisco 49ers fans who took over SoFi Stadium last season. But they were loud, forcing the Rams to go to a silent count again at their $5 billion stadium.

“It wasn’t something we’ve never done before,” Stafford said.

Stafford had said he had worked through tendinitis and felt “great” going into the game. But he didn’t look like the quarterback who led the Rams into a playoff run that culminated in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium.

Stafford completed 29 of 41 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. He made what seemed an obvious mistake on an intercepted pass in the second quarter. Two more interceptions came from tilted passes.

Receiver Cooper Kupp caught 13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. New receiver Allen Robinson had a catch for 12 yards. Stafford was also harassed by several dropped passes from other recipients.

“Play more efficiently,” said Stafford when asked what he could do better. “Try to get the ball out faster.”

The Rams defense produced three turnovers in the first half — linebacker Ernest Jones forced a fumble and linebacker Terrrell Lewis and cornerback Troy Hill intercepted passes — but the offense converted only one to a field goal.

However, the defense couldn’t stop Allen or the Bills in third place. The Bills converted nine of ten third-down opportunities.

“Any time you leave a team in third place 90% of the time – no matter how many turnovers you get – you’re not going to win the game,” Wagner said.

After the Rams started the second half with a three and out, Allen took the opportunity.

His short touchdown pass to Isaiah McKinzie put the Bills ahead, and then Miller began doing exactly what the Bills were hoping for when they outbid the Rams for his services.

When Miller fired Stafford for the second time, it all but eliminated any chance of the Rams generating momentum.

Rams cornerback Troy Hill intercepts the ball in front of Buffalo Bills receiver Jamison Powder.

Rams cornerback Troy Hill intercepts the ball in front of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jamison Powder in the second quarter Thursday at SoFi Stadium.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Allen made them pay by directing an 89-yard drive highlighted by his 41-yard smash to Gabe Davis and his 4-yard scramble for a touchdown that put the Rams 24-10 behind.

The Rams’ chances of a textbook comeback led by Stafford ended when Stafford’s no-look pass to Cooper Kupp tipped out of the receiver’s hands and fell into the arms of safe Jordan Poyer.

Allen then fired off a 53-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to seal the defeat.

“We’re going to fix that,” McVay said, “and that’s all we can do.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-08/rams-season-opener-vs-bills-nfl-recap Rams begin Super Bowl title defense with blowout loss to Bills

Emma Bowman

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