Final Score: Los Angeles Rams 10 – Buffalo Bills 31
There is a reason certain pass rushers have been deemed game-wreckers. When an opposing defense gets pressure on a quarterback it upsets the apple cart of the whole game. Along with the negative plays and general disruption it causes to a quarterback it also has other effects on the game. Like, perhaps, it makes it impossible to tell if your new free agent pass-catcher is a good signing. Or it makes it nearly impossible to tell if the head coach had a good game plan. It could even make it hard to tell if, say, your quarterback’s arm is injured or not.
Von Miller and the rest of the Bills’ pass rush did all of those things. They wrecked this game for the Rams’ offense. It
Rams Passing Offense
Matthew Stafford was pressured on 38 percent of his dropbacks. Last season, that number was 26.2 percent. His average depth of target was 6.2. That would have put him dead last among starting quarterbacks last year. Jared Goff‘s average was 6.8 in 2021.
The Bills’ pass rush got to Stafford and got to him quickly. He couldn’t find a rhythm and it prevented him from getting any big chunk plays. Stafford completed only four throws that traveled for more than ten air yards.
The pressure forced the offense to be incredibly predictable. Cooper Kupp was targeted on 38.5 percent of his passing attempts. That kind of predictability isn’t always a problem, but the Buffalo secondary contained the superstar receiver, holding him to 9.8 yards per reception and 4.4 yards after the catch. Last season he averaged 13.4 yards per catch and 5.9 yards after the catch.
The next most targeted Rams receiver was tight end Tyler Higbee. Last season, Higbee averaged 4.8 targets per game. Higbee’s nine targets against the Bills almost doubled that number and matched his season high from 2021. He was targeted nine times against the Titans and Ravens. The Rams had similar problems moving the ball against those two teams.
All that to say, Stafford didn’t have time to get past his first read (Kupp) on most dropbacks and was forced to dump the ball off to Higbee and Darrell Henderson, his check-down receivers, more often than this usually high-octane offense does. This is a big reason Allen Robinson was only targeted twice.
All in all the Bills’ pass rush sacked Stafford seven times and hurried him 11 times.
McVay coordinates a rhtym-based offense and Stafford has largely played quarterback in the same fashion. The Bills’ pass rush never allowed that to happen. What might be even more amazing is they did this without Ed Oliver for all but 17 snaps. They also wrecked the Rams’ offense without blitzing. This means the Bills could remain in their preferred nickel defense, rather than committing more pass rushers to the line of scrimmage.
Of course, the defensive line was also the chief reason that the Rams running game never got going. While we can’t tell what McVay was truly attempting to run on offense, rushing the ball on early downs is not an aggressive, efficient offense.
The Bills Secondary Against The Rams Receivers
Getting a stifling amount of pressure with only four pass rushers only helps the secondary. Having three cornerbacks and two linebackers, mucking up the route paths allowed the Bills to keep their two-high safety shell intact. This aided the pass rush by ensuring that Stafford had nowhere to go on deep routes. The Bills also roll with two of the best safeties in the game. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer just needed to be able backstops for the cornerbacks. This condensed the field. Which is another reason Stafford only completed four passes beyond 10 air yards.
Luckily for the Rams, most teams don’t have safeties like Hyde and Poyer. But the Rams struggled against teams with good safeties last season too. This is a problem to keep an eye on.
The Rams Offensive Line
Of course, the Bills’ pass rush didn’t meet much resistance. The Rams offensive line crumbled when facing a far superior defensive line. Ironically, the offensive lineman that fared the best was the one with the least experience. Coleman Shelton allowed three pressures and no sacks. Some of this may be due to the scary fact that the Bills were without Ed Oliver. Joseph Noteboom struggled the most. He allowed eight pressures including three sacks. Even the veteran Rob Havenstein struggled.
There are no good answers for the Rams here. The offensive line has to either take a gigantic leap forward or find support in free agency or a trade. This year could be a long one for Stafford and the offense and Rams fans broadly speaking.
They play some ferocious defensive lines with pass-rushing monsters. Along with facing San Francisco’s vaunted front twice, they will go up against Dallas, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Las Vegas, and the Chargers. Not all of these teams are as good of pass rushers as the Bills, but a few might actually be better.
The offensive line also sustained injuries this week. Noteboom strained his MCL, but will likely return to action against the Falcons next week. Brian Allen will have a cleanout procedure on his knee and will miss 2-4 weeks. Shelton will move to center and Tremayne Anchrum will take over at guard.
From what we saw in the preseason, the depth along the offensive line is not great, but Anchrum was one of the bright spots. He allowed six pressures and no sacks in three preseason games.