Takeaways from Rams’ season-opening loss to Bills

The Buffalo Bills defeated the defending champion Rams 31-10 in the first game of the NFL season Thursday night at SoFi Stadium.

Here’s what we learned from the Rams’ defeat:

Rams fans shouldn’t go into panic mode… yet

Look, the first game of a season isn’t an indicator of how a team will do at the end of the season.

On the other hand, only two of the last 10 Super Bowl champions — the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2014 New England Patriots — lost their opening games aside from the Rams.

The Rams will almost certainly equal their record on Sept. 18 when they play the Atlanta Falcons at SoFi Stadium.

When the Rams lose, panic is inevitable.

Sean McVay might want to reconsider his preseason philosophy — when a legitimate Super Bowl contender is the first opponent

You can’t really blame the Rams’ sixth-year coach for not starting the preseason. McVay’s teams won five opening games after he threw out the starters by not subjecting them to injury in meaningless preseason games.

But none of those season-opening opponents were as strong as the Bills, who are among the favorites to get into the Super Bowl.

Does the offensive line need better blocking? Of course. The Rams won’t win many games if they keep dropping seven sacks.

Would the group have benefited from playing a bit together in preseason?

About this offensive line…

New left tackle Joe Noteboom wasn’t the only lineman struggling to keep quarterback Matthew Stafford upright.

McVay and new offensive coordinator Liam Coen said establishing a consistent running game is among their top priorities this season.

The Rams ran a total of 52 yards. Darrell Henderson gained 47 yards in 13 carries, Cam Akers zero yards in three carries.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford watches from the ground as Bills' Von Miller celebrates a sack.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford looks on as Bills’ Von Miller celebrates a sack.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The condition of Matthew Stafford’s right arm remains an issue

Stafford said he felt great heading into the opener, the tendinitis in his right elbow appears to be under control or gone.

If Stafford had played well there would be no reason to doubt that he really was 100%.

But three passes were intercepted, two on tipped balls. Others missed the mark. And while there wasn’t a problem evident to the naked eye, questions remain about the condition of his arm until Stafford plays better.

Allen Robinson needs more goals

The Rams signed Robinson to replace Robert Woods and complement star receiver Cooper Kupp.

But Robinson, a ninth-year pro who has surpassed 1,000 yards three times, has only been targeted twice against the Bills, catching a pass for 12 yards.

According to profootballreference.com, Robinson has been targeted three times or just once during his pro career. In the 2017 Jacksonville opener, he caught the only pass thrown at him before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Kupp was tackled 15 times and had 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Tyler Higbee was targeted 11 times and had just five catches. He dropped two. Receiver Tutu Atwell dropped the only pass that got in his way.

Aaron Donald didn’t play like the retired guy

Donald, who wears the No. 99, began his ninth season by recording his 99th career sack.

Donald flirted with retiring after winning the Super Bowl. The seven-time All-Pro and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year finally returned to the Rams after a massive raise.

Inside linebackers Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones can be a powerful force in tandem

Wagner, an 11th-year pro making his Rams debut, had seven tackles, including a sack.

Jones, a sophomore pro, forced a fumble that was recovered by outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.

The secondary side needs improvement

Cornerback Troy Hill intercepted a pass, but the defensive backs otherwise struggled with Bill’s quarterback Josh Allen, one of the league’s strongest passers and a superb runner.

Allen completed 26 of 31 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and he rushed for the touchdown.

Allen threw a short scoring pass to Isaiah McKenzie, a medium-range touchdown pass to Gabe Davis, and a long scoring pass to Stefon Diggs.

The SoFi Stadium is an attraction – also for the fans of the opposing teams

The Rams benefit from playing in a region as large as Southland. But it is home to transplants from across the country and the world and is also an attractive tourist destination.

The Rams, used to the onslaught of a visiting team’s fans — see last season’s games against the San Francisco 49ers — expected a heavy involvement from the Bills Mafia. Because of the noise, the Rams operated with silent count at times.

It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-09/takeaways-rams-loss-bills-matthew-stafford-josh-allen-aaron-donald Takeaways from Rams’ season-opening loss to Bills

Emma Bowman

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