Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season: Lessons from the Bills’ Thursday victory against the Rams

Allen and Bills say something. Technically speaking, Josh Allen’s evening wasn’t great. After all, he was sacked and threw two interceptions.

However, anyone who watched Thursday’s game understands that the first one was obviously on the receiver; credit the second pick to Rams CB Troy Hill, who made a superb play by reading the throw expertly. Before and after that, though, Allen was a machine. The Rams had no answer for him once he was free to use his legs more in the second half, both on scrambles and planned runs.

There were no throws of 20 or more air yards over the first three quarters. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Allen threw a deep pass for 47 yards to Gabe Davis while facing a Cover-0 blitz. He entered the end zone three plays later. How can you prevent him? Two picks were insufficient. Allen is off to a scorching start and is everyone’s choice for MVP.
Is Stafford right to be worried? It’s simple to speculate on Matthew Stafford’s health. How could we not, after all the summer rumours regarding his elbow?

There were instances during the game when he threw more over the top than I can recall, but that’s hardly evidence that his throwing motion favours it in any way. It’s unclear who is to blame for Stafford’s first interception, which appeared to be the result of a misunderstanding with tight end Tyler Higbee. Stafford attempted to throw a no-look (three-quarters arm angle) pass to Cooper Kupp on the second interception, but Stafford was high and off-target with it. Was the trip attractive? No, not at all. His task was made much more difficult by the Rams’ poor blocking and inability to run the ball out of 11 personnel.

Stafford’s difficulties in Week 1 may have a physical component, but let’s not jump to that conclusion after just one game.
The Bills’ defence deserves praise. How the Bills’ young corners would struggle was a topic of much of the incoming conversation. Though Dane Jackson had a pick, rookies Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford (a sixth-round pick who played FCS ball a year ago) stood up remarkably well. Despite their best efforts, the Rams were unable to break the Bills out of their two-high looks for the majority of the evening. It’s difficult when you can’t run the ball.

Because there weren’t many big-play opportunities, it appeared to irritate Stafford and Sean McVay. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier theoretically operates with an old-school mentality: make the offence matriculate down the field eight, 10, 12 plays at a crack. It is assumed that errors will occur. This outlook came true in a significant way on Thursday. Von Miller and what appears to be a much deeper defensive line group provided the Bills with effective pressure for most of the game (particularly early). Poor pass protection by the Rams allowed them to have only one drive longer than 38 yards in the first 55 minutes of play. But the Buffalo defence, which collected three interceptions and seven sacks, deserves praise.

Dorsey made a strong debut. Early on in his first regular-season game as a play-caller, Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey had the game planned out. That worry about losing Brian Daboll is old news (for now). When Dorsey was Cam Newton’s quarterback coach for the Panthers, he had Allen execute several rollout plays. Dorsey occasionally employed Allen as a runner on the touchdown drive that gave the Bills a 17-10 lead, which led to his highlight-reel stiff-arm of Rams cornerback Nick Scott. In combination with what appear to be new outside zone toss plays, a Kyle Shanahan staple, Dorsey was able to keep the Rams’ defence off-balance multiple times.

Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season: Lessons from the Bills' Thursday victory against the Rams
Allen and Bills say something. Technically speaking, Josh Allen’s evening wasn’t great. img credit by NFL

Cam was missing. Cam Akers sat out most of the first drive as the Rams employed running back Darrell Henderson extensively (and on all eight plays). This was after Akers declared earlier this week that, “I know I’m healthy.” He added: “Everybody else will simply get to see (Thursday) (Thursday). I’m not going to go prove to anyone that I’m in good health. Akers’ first carry occurred a few minutes into the second quarter and resulted in a no-gain. He would total two carries for 0 yards. Is it still too early to worry? No doubt. First week.

The Rams’ matchup with the Falcons is in 10 days. The score gets a little out of hand and may have contributed to some of his usages. Perhaps Akers’ soft-tissue ailment from the preseason is still giving him some trouble. However, it will be important to watch how the Rams deploy their backs early in the season. Owners of Akers’ fantasy teams undoubtedly will.

The Bills did not blitz on any of Matthew Stafford’s passes on Thursday night, which was the Next Gen stat of the game. In games against the Chiefs in 2020 and 2021, the Bills’ defence also had the only other zero-blitz games (during the NGS era).

NFL Research: The Ravens’ 22-point loss at Denver in 2013 (Peyton Manning’s first game with the Broncos) was one point larger than the Rams’ 21-point loss, which was the second-largest ever for a defending Super Bowl champion.