The Buffalo Bills were on a completely different level taking out the defending champion Los Angeles Rams to open the 2022 NFL season Thursday night.
With the game tied at 10 heading into the third quarter, Buffalo scored three unanswered touchdowns in the second half. All three scores came via NFL MVP candidate Josh Allen. Meanwhile, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked seven times while throwing three interceptions in the blowout 31-10 loss.
In a game that saw Los Angeles overmatched at home, one of its former players made a major statement, too. Below, we provide you with the six biggest winners and losers from Buffalo’s statement victory.
Related: Live NFL Week 1 scores
Winner: Von Miller, EDGE, Buffalo Bills
This future Hall of Famer made his return Thursday night to SoFi Stadium, the very same location in which he helped the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl in February. Joined by several thousands Buffalo Bills fans in Southern California, Miller more than made his presence known. That included a first quarter sack of former teammate Matthew Stafford and another quarterback take down in the second half.
Some questioned the huge six-year, $120 million contract Buffalo gave Miller during the spring without looking at the actual details. What we do know is that the 33-year-old eight-time Pro Bowler is still a force. He proved that in his return to Los Angeles Thursday evening to open the 2022 season.
Loser: James Cook, running back, Buffalo Bills
Cook entered Thursday’s NFL debut as Buffalo’s third-string running back. Despite this, most thought he would be given an opportunity to take touches from both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. The rookie second-round pick from Georgia didn’t even give head coach Sean McDermott a chance to feature him.
Yes, that’s a lost fumble on Cook’s first ever regular-season touch. As we’ve seen throughout the NFL, young running backs putting the ball on the turf equates to riding the pine. McDermott and new Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey are not going to put up with this moving forward.
Winner: Cooper Kupp, wide receiver, Los Angeles Rams
The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP was pretty much the only player on the defending champion Rams to show up in this regular-season opener. Sure Stafford was picked off once targeting Kupp. But what was on an overthrow.
Once all was said and done Thursday night, one of the game’s best receivers put up another tremendous statistical outing. Kupp caught 13-of-15 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Rams, no other receiver was able to step up with Van Jefferson sidelined to injury. In fact, free-agent addition Allen Robinson caught just one pass for 12 yards. That will need to change moving forward for Los Angeles.
Loser: David Long, cornerback, Los Angeles Rams
Ahead of this game, we focused on Long as one of the players to watch. He was battling with Troy Hill to be one of the starters opposite Jalen Ramsey. At least initially, Long got play in the slot to open the 2022 season. It did not go swimmingly for the fourth-year player from Michigan. That included being burnt by Stefon Diggs on a 53-yard touchdown to put this game away in the fourth quarter.
Long, 24, yielded a mere 84.9 QB rating when targeted a season ago. That number stood at north of 130 against the Buffalo Bills. Simply put, Los Angeles needs more from Long and its cornerbacks if it is going to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Winner: Josh Allen, quarterback, Buffalo Bills
Yes, Allen threw two interceptions Thursday night. But only one of them was his fault. Outside of that, the star Bills quarterback put up a gem of a performance in this one. He was as accurate as all get out, moved around the pocket in a grand way and actually put a physical hurting on Rams defenders. Just ask safety Nick Scott.
- Josh Allen stats (Thursday night): 26-of-31 passing, 297 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, 4 total TD, 2 INT
Whether it was tossing long bombs to Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs or going in for a score himself, Allen looked every bit the part of the NFL MVP favorite in this opener.
There’s really not much more that we can say here. Allen was on a completely different level for his Buffalo Bills in this one. He’s a top-tier all-around player in the game and continues to improve. It’s going to be sensational to watch him grow as the 2022 season continues.
Loser: Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
There were a ton of concerns over Stafford’s elbow leading up to the start of the 2022 season. In fact, we learned that he underwent a procedure during the offseason. Sure the Super Bowl winner entered the NFL record books Thursday night. But he looked like a shell of his former self in this one. It was gross to watch.
We’re not even sure what Stafford was looking at there. Late and to the outside. Inaccurate, too. It was a continuing theme for Stafford throughout Los Angeles’ blowout season-opening loss. Put it this way. Stafford complete 16-of-26 passes for 112 yards with two interceptions for a 39.3 QB rating when targeting players outside of Cooper Kupp. Yuck!