The Los Angeles Rams fell to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night, 31-10. To say the least, it was far from the opening night performance that the Rams were looking for. Not much seemed to go right in all three phases of the game.
Even in a game that ended as lopsided as this one did, NFL games typically come down to a handful of plays. Thursday’s game between the Rams and Bills was no different. Here are three plays that changed the game in the Rams’ loss to the Bills.
(12:55 - 2nd QTR), 2nd-and-10 from BUF 36
Stafford and Higbee not on the same page pic.twitter.com/NAC5OSvwah— Billy M (@BillyM_91) September 9, 2022
It was pretty clear heading into the second quarter that the Rams offense was going to struggle getting into a rhythm against the Bills defense. Their first two drives ended in punts, going three-and-out on the second.
When the Rams got a short field after Terrell Lewis intercepted Josh Allen, they needed to take advantage of it. Instead, two plays later, Matthew Stafford and Tyler Higbee weren’t on the same page the Bills took the ball right back on a Dane Jackson interception.
The Rams ended up going into the half tied, 10-10. A lot more went wrong in the second-half than the opening one. Still, this was an opportunity for the Rams to find some rhythm on offense and get some momentum. The Rams defense turned the ball over four times and were reward with just three points from the offense.
(10:34 - 3rd QTR), 3rd-and-7 from LA 43
Brandon Powell wanted to make a play on Thursday Night, but his kickoff return after the Bills scored in the first quarter went to just the 17-yard line. After bringing the ball out again to start the second half, the Rams opened at their own 11-yard line and went three-and-out.
This resulted in good field position for the Bills. Still, the Rams defense put themselves in position to get off the field. On 3rd-and-7, the secondary had good coverage, but the defensive line opened up a rush-lane for Allen and he took advantage.
Safety Nick Scott had a chance to bring down the Bills quarterback, but an impressive stiff-arm allowed Allen to pick up the final yard. The Bills would go on to score on this drive and set the tone early in the second-half.
This sequence was game-changing. According to ESPN’s win probability model, the Rams opened the second half with a 50.9 percent chance to win the game. Prior to the third down play, that number swayed to 56.1 percent in favor of the Bills.That number jumped to 60.1 percent following the conversion and 72.7 percent after the eventual touchdown.
Following the opening drive by each team to open the second half, the Rams lost over 20 points in win probability.
(9:25 - 4rd QTR), 3rd-and-4 from BUF 47
For the most part, the Rams defense played fine on Thursday night. At the end of the day, they forced four turnovers against what many would consider the best offense in the league. It was in the important moments that the defense failed to make plays. The Bills went 9-for-10 on third down for a 90 percent conversion rate.
The final conversion came on 3rd-and-4 from midfield in the fourth quarter. Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs beat Jalen Ramsey over the top, scoring the touchdown that clinched the game.
Before this play, the game was mostly over. Buffalo’s win probability was 97.1 percent. However, Stafford ranks fifth all-time in fourth quarter comebacks, which includes three last season. If the Rams defense got a stop here, there was at least some hope to get back in the game. Nine minutes is a lot of time.
Instead, the Rams allowed Allen to escape the pocket and Diggs got past Ramsey for the touchdown. Ramsey has a tendency to try to bait quarterbacks by giving wide receivers more space. His make-up speed is among the best in the league. On this play, he might have been expecting safety help over the top, but Nick Scott has to come down to cover the middle.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jalen Ramsey allowed a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in Week 1. He was targeted seven times, allowing six receptions for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He has now allowed a deep touchdown in four his last six games, including playoffs. Ramsey had gone the previous 65 games without allowing a single one.