Rams’ Super Bowl repeat quest begins with ugly whimper vs. Bills

Seven months ago, the Rams celebrated on this field under a blizzard of confetti.

Thursday night they were the confetti.

Shredded, shot up and left in tiny pieces on the floor of SoFi Stadium.

In their first game since winning the Super Bowl championship here in February, the Rams delivered not an exciting encore but a sour continuation.

Did we really need another hangover?

It’s a long season and little can be gained by making general assumptions from a game, but suffice it to say the Rams opened their 2022 season like they were about to sweat out that boozy championship save.

The Buffalo Bills are Super Bowl favorites and a team on a mission and blah, blah, blah, but seriously, their 31-10 win looked and felt more like a Rams loss.

Everything the Rams did when they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in their last game on that field, they weren’t.

Everything the Rams are supposed to do to become the first team to repeat as champions in nearly two decades… so far they haven’t.

Before the game, the Rams superimposed one of their championship rings on the head of a Bills fan on the giant video board.

In response, the fan angrily gestured with the middle finger.

It’s never been nicer.

“Tonight was a humbling night,” said coach Sean McVay.

The evening began with the unveiling of the 2021 championship banner, which hung in an end zone next to the 1999 St. Louis Rams title banner, glowing beautifully.

At the end of the night this banner was shrouded in darkness.

“We can definitely play better,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford.

I hope.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is fired by Bill's defensive end Gregory Rousseau in the third quarter.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is fired by Bill’s defensive end Gregory Rousseau in the third quarter. Buffalo ended the night with seven sacks.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Bills forged a 10-0 lead, the Rams pushed back to a 10-all-half tie, then the Bills completely dominated the second half, exposing all sorts of cracks in the Rams’ glittering armor.

On a day when news broke that Stafford’s elbow injury was perhaps more serious than first thought, he was erratic and limited, throwing short, long and throwing three passes that were intercepted.

“I can try to get the ball out faster, get it to them in better places… play inside myself as much as possible… keep leading, keep fighting,” Stafford said.

The Rams’ running attack, which saw Cam Akers carry the ball for Zilch just three times, was barely visible, garnered just 52 yards and was inconsequential.

The Rams’ offensive line was terrible after leader Andrew Whitworth’s retirement, allowing seven sacks from a harried Stafford.

“That’s not an offensive line stat, that’s a team stat,” Stafford said. “I gotta better help these guys.”

The Rams defense, with Aaron Donald quiet and new leader Bobby Wagner even quieter, was rolled over. Though they had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, they also allowed 413 yards, including 56 yards rushing from Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who simply ran over people, including four yards for a touchdown.

It was ugly. It was unusual. For a championship franchise that rarely loses games or moments like this — McVay was 5-0 in the season opener — it was surprisingly incongruous.

Midway through the fourth quarter, some jerks ran onto the field waving red smoke bombs, but even the red clouds weren’t enough to cover up the chaos.

McVay blamed himself. Of course he did. He always does.

“There’s no way to put it, I didn’t do my job well enough,” he said. “It starts with me.”

The Rams actually seemed to get out of rhythm, on heels, rarely engaging in combat. Their game request appeared to consist solely of Stafford passing the ball to Darrell Henderson Jr. or passing it to Kupp. Her acclaimed new wide receiver Allen Robinson? He was tackled twice and caught a ball.

“You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I have to improve within the character,'” McVay said. “That’s what I’m going to do, that’s what our coaches are going to do, that’s what our players are going to do.”

McVay was aware of the missed opportunity, the missed chance to put together a celebratory show for a national television audience.

This was the night for the Rams to announce to the football world, “We’re back!”

Instead it was, “Where are you?”

And now it’s “Where are they going?”

“I feel like I’m letting a lot of people who are important to me down,” McVay said. “I will not run away from the mistakes I made tonight. We’ll fix that.”

The Bills marched 75 yards on the first drive of the game and chased the ball down the Rams’ throats for eight plays before fooling them with a play-action pass from Allen to a wide-open Gabe Davis for a 26-yard touchdown .

Midway through the second quarter, they added a 41-yard field goal from Tyler Bass after a 45-yard drive after Dane Jackson intercepted a terrible Stafford pass that sailed miserably behind Tyler Higbee.

But after the Rams pulled it off, the second half started with more of Bill’s dominance.

After Stafford fumbled on a third-down play and took his fourth sack, the Bills took over and rolled over the Rams defense for 58 yards in eight games, resulting in a 7-yard Allen touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie.

At a blue spot during the drive, Allen finished an eight-yard run with a brutal stiff arm from Nick Scott.

On another blue point, Devin Singletary finished an eight-yard shot by rolling over David Long Jr.

The Bills then reeled off an 89-yard touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter, followed by a 53-yard touchdown pass that Stefon Diggs caught just outside of Jalen Ramsey’s reach. Even the Rams superstars were not immune to embarrassment that night.

The Rams’ comeback attempt ended appropriately with a high Stafford pass that Kupp tipped into the hands of Jordan Poyer and the stands quickly emptied.

“Only chapter one of a guaranteed 17 chapters that we have,” McVay said. “I look forward to coming out swinging.”

This is indeed just the beginning and it’s good to come out swinging. But my goodness, that was a whopper from Strikeout.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-08/rams-super-bowl-repeat-buffalo-bills-nfl Rams’ Super Bowl repeat quest begins with ugly whimper vs. Bills

Emma Bowman

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