Rams lose home opener, get ready for Atlanta

Soon after hoisting their 2021 NFL Championship banner to the SoFi Stadium rafters the Buffalo Bills dismantled the reigning Super Bowl Champion Rams from the opening drive, eventually waltzing to a 31-10 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 73,846, with seemingly half the crowd sporting Buffalo blue jerseys.

"We weren't ready to go," stated Rams head coach Sean McVay after the game. "I take a lot of pride in that and that's on me. I got to do better. There was a lot of decisions that I made that I felt like didn't put our players in good enough spots."

The Rams now prepare for the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday, starting 1:05 p.m. at SoFi. The Falcons lost a 27-26 heartbreaker in their home-opener to the New Orleans Saints. The Rams, surprisingly to many of its fans, were a 2.5-point underdog to the Bills, considered this season's frontrunner for the Lombardi Championship Trophy. The Falcons are on the other end of the ranking spectrum, so the Rams are favored by 10.5 points to begin defending their title.

The Bills were clearly the better team in the league opener and their quarterback Josh Allen was clearly the best player on the field. After yielding a touchdown on the opening drive, the Rams defense pressured Allen enough to somehow allow Los Angeles to tie the game at the half, 10-10. Yet, it was all smoke and mirrors after half time as the Bills offense turned the game into a sandlot scrimmage. Allen ended the game completing 26 of 31 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns. He also led both teams in rushing with 56 yards on 10 carries.

"I was actually happy at halftime," said Allen. "Three turnovers and going in 10-to-10, 0-to-0. You know that gave us all the confidence in the world, our defense being able to back us up. We hurt ourselves a lot in that first half. There's a lot to learn from. But that second half, that's who we want to be."

On the other side of the coin, the Rams offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford were never in the ball game. Stafford got sacked seven times (including two times by short-term Ram linebacker/edge rusher Von Miller) for 49 lost yards and completed the game with a 63.1 quarterback rating. The offense totaled an anemic 140 yards through the first three quarters with a one-dimensional offense that mostly featured wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

"I can play more efficient, try to get the ball out quicker, get it to those guys in better spots so we're catching and running with it," acknowledged Stafford while complementing the Bills defense. "They were doing a nice job of playing deep to short... Not a lot of people play nickel safety, same side, cover three. They did. It wasn't earth-shattering stuff. It was just, 'Whoa...okay. I hadn't seen that in a while."

The Rams offensive frontline gave Stafford very little protection or time throughout the game as he was also hit 15 times and pressured on 19 of this drop backs. The Bills' Miller and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips completely overmatched Rams' linemen Joe Noteboom and David Edwards. Kupp was the Rams only effective threat, catching 13 of 15 targeted passes for 128 yards and one touchdown reception. Tight end Tyler Higbee caught only five of 11 passes thrown to him for 39 yards. Five other receivers caught 11 passes for 73 yards and a lot of those catches came when the game was already decided.

On Sunday the Atlanta Falcons will be a good early season test to see how the Rams rebound from their "Super Bowl hangover." Behind quarterback Marcus Mariota they led a solid Saints team by 16 points before collapsing in the fourth quarter last Sunday. He did a good job of protecting the ball while completing 20 of 33 passed for 215 yards. Their young receiving corps was led by Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge and Kyle Pitts. They totaled 201 yards rushing with Cordarrelle Patterson gaining 120 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.

The Falcons offensive frontline also didn't allow an elusive Mariota to be sacked once and they rank high in the league in run and pass blocking. In contrast, the Rams ranked down the list in both offensive line categories. The Rams registered two sacks in Week 1 with defensive tackle Aaron Donald and linebacker Bobby Wagner getting to Allen once each. Trying to contain Mariota and the Falcons running attack will be key to the Rams success on defense.

"But we also can't allow this game to affect our preparation and planning as it relates to the Falcons," said McVay. "I think this is the hand that we're dealt. We've got to handle it the right way and I do trust that with the players and the coaches we'll respond and go compete to the best of our ability next week against the Falcons."


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