The 2022 NFL season kicked off on Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills. For LA it was a night of hanging banners a beginning their quest to repeat their championship performance, but the Bills seemed to be the better team from the onset - they came out on top 31-10.
Buffalo put together a long opening drive and Josh Allen capped it off with a touchdown pass to Gabe Davis. While the game was tied at 10 points heading into halftime, the Bills seemed to have a significant edge over LA for most of the contest.
There were some individuals for the Rams that did what they could to right the ship, but others need to turn things around if LA expects to compete for a title again in 2022:
Cooper Kupp, WR
Kupp may not only be the best wide receiver currently in the NFL, he’s probably the most consistent in terms of production - he’s almost always good for 100+ yards and a touchdown or two.
Thursday night was no different. Kupp hauled in 13 catches on 15 targets for 128 yards and a score.
It’s not Kupp’s fault, but Matthew Stafford really needs to make an effort to involve other targets in the offense.
This TD grab by Cooper Kupp is absolutely ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/OwlbEGgWre— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 9, 2022
Troy Hill, CB
Remember, the Rams only had to send the Cleveland Browns a fifth round selection to re-acquire Hill this offseason - and he’s already paying dividends for the team.
Hill provides a young secondary room with a veteran presence, and he’s so dependable on the field and has a nose for takeaways. His interception on Allen was a thing of beauty:
Troy Hill with a nice break on the INT. That’s 2 picks for Allen before halftime.— John Ellis (@1PantherPlace) September 9, 2022
Bills have 8 rush attempts so far (they ranked 13th in rush att last year)
Darrell Henderson, RB
Henderson was clearly the lead back for LA in Week 1. There wasn’t much room to work on the ground, but the fourth year running back was physical and created yards after contact. Henderson accumulated 47 yards on 13 carries (3.6 avg) and added 5 receptions for 26 yards through the air.
Darrell Henderson trucks Micah Hyde pic.twitter.com/l32OkFkdex— alex (@highlghtheaven) September 9, 2022
Matthew Stafford, QB
Whether most of the blame should fall on the shoulder of Stafford or Sean McVay is to be determined, but the Rams didn’t really seem to have a committed offensive plan heading into this game. This was a stark difference to the Bills, who prioritized quick passes to mitigate the pass rush and string together long drives.
For Stafford, he seemed to first look for Kupp and check it down to the running back if he was covered. He looked slow to get through his reads, which put significant pressure on the offensive line against a formidable pass rush.
Stafford finished with 240 yards, a touchdown, and 3 interceptions (QB rating of 63.1), though the team only had around 110 net passing yards by the time the score was out of hand.
This is easily one of the worst performances we’ve seen from Stafford in royal and sol, but it’s still early on in the 2022 season and there’s time to turn things around.
Matthew Stafford responds with his first INT of the season!pic.twitter.com/dcwjsIv3Xd— 365Scores (@365Scores) September 9, 2022
Cam Akers, RB
It took until about the third or fourth offensive possession for Akers to make on appearance on the field - and he was mostly an after thought behind Henderson.
Akers has been a mainstay when healthy, even as a rookie. So it’s head scratching for him to only receive three carries and not record a single net yard.
Allen Robinson, WR
Return specialist Brandon Powell was featured on offense more heavily than starting receiver Allen Robinson, who was targeted twice and caught one pass for 12 yards.
Robinson was a training camp standout, so it’s too early to be down on his performance. Perhaps it will take him some time to develop a rapport with Stafford, but a string of similar performances could suggest that it’s time to sound the alarm bells.
Sean McVay, Head Coach
What was the offensive game plan for Thursday night, assuming there was one?
When Joseph Noteboom struggled to block Von Miller one-on-one, why did the Rams not allocate more resources to helping him? Sure, LA has had the luxury of leaving Whitworth on an island for the better part of the last five years - but that guy retired.
As aggressive as the Buffalo pass rush was pursuing Stafford, why did the team not attempt screen passes to the running backs. Tight end Tyler Higbee took a screen play 10+ yards, and this could have been a way to get Henderson or Akers involved.
Thursday night was a story of not having an adequate plan in place initially and then failing to adjust at various stages in the game.
Jalen Ramsey, CB
It may not be fair to solely blame Ramsey for multiple coverage busts that resulted in long touchdowns - maybe these were situations where he was playing his assignment or expecting safety help behind him - but he was often the closest player in coverage on big passing plays for the Bills.
Buffalo converted third downs almost at will, and the Rams needed their star defenders to make plays and force incompletions.
Jordan Fuller, DB
A disappearing act in addition to Akers. While Fuller was the “green dot guy” and defensive captain a year ago, he seems to be the third safety behind Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott. Sure, most NFL defenses are playing three safeties fairly often, but this is still a significant drop-off from where he was last season.
Tutu Atwell, WR
Perhaps the preseason would have been beneficial for players like Tutu Atwell, whose lone target in this game was dropped. Atwell was used sparingly in this game, though maybe the Rams could have benefitted from handing him a jet sweep or using him on a screen play.