Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season is in the books and the campaign kicked off with the Buffalo Bills traveling to face the Los Angeles Rams. Los Angeles fell to Buffalo by a heavy scoreline of 31-10, which was a surprise to many.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the Bills-Rams game:
#1. New offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey gives Buffalo’s offense a different look which compliments Josh Allen
The Bills were the odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl all offseason and coming into the year. This was mainly due to how talented their roster is and the superhuman they have at quarterback (especially considering what he looked like when last seen), but there were some questions about what the offense would look like.
With former coordinator Brian Daboll taking on the head coaching job for the New York Giants, Ken Dorsey was bound to be elevated yet again. He’s now gone from quarterbacks coach in Buffalo since 2019, to then adding the title of passing game coordinator last season and now calling the plays this year (something he’s never done at any level). However, being a highly accomplished college quarterback and having played eight seasons in the NFL himself, gives him a unique perspective on the game. The early signs as an OC were excellent.
I really liked seeing them go under center more and run heavy play-action out of 21 personnel to give Josh Allen the protection he needs, to the advantage of his big arm and let it fly to those receivers. There was a lay-up for the initial 26-yard touchdown to Gabriel Davis, where he was completely by himself thanks to the way they sold the run. Yet, they were still able to spread the Rams defense out in empty, using motions to indicate coverage and keep Allen a viable rushing threat against soft box looks.
Allen looked so comfortable, knowing where to go with the ball pre-snap, making clean reads (with his 2.47 seconds to throw being the second-lowest of his career) plus the few plays where he needed to extend as the cherry on top. They’re looking scary to prepare for.
#2. Von Miller looks revitalized and he’s given the Bills D-line a new level of energy
Flipping over to the defensive side of the ball for the Bills, schematically it looked very much like the end of 2021 and into the playoffs (when they were near the bottom of the league in blitz-rate and played a lot of two-high coverages). In the season-opener, they blitzed on just two percent of plays and played a variation of cover-two, -four or two-man on 57.2 percent. Yet, they somehow were able to pressure Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford on 30.6% of dropbacks and sack him a grand total of seven times.
Holding their opponents to just under three yards per carry on 18 attempts certainly helped them get towards obvious passing situations (as they were in third-and-eight or longer on eight of 14 third downs) and I’ll get to that momentarily. However, my big takeaway was how unblockable Von Miller was on his return to Los Angeles, racking up three tackles for loss, two sacks and QB hits respectively.
His level of energy and confidence seemed to seep into the rest of the group, as four other guys were able to register a sack. Even after Ed Oliver had to leave the game after creating disruption early on, the constant fire for Stafford didn’t stop. Jordan Phillips in particular, on his return to the Bills (after having a couple of highly disappointing seasons in Arizona), might have played as well as we’ve ever seen.
#3. The Rams will not be able to make another championship push with this run game
I could have gone straight to coaching here, because I felt like Sean McVay, Raheem Morris and company didn’t make any real adjustments all game long. I want to focus on the ground game especially though, as they were only able to muster 52 yards on 18 total carries, with only one of them going for more than five yards and exactly half resulting in one yard or less.
Constantly being in second-and-nine or even longer is a recipe for disaster when playing against a defensive front like Buffalo’s. Combined with how they squeeze everything down in zone coverage and demand quarterbacks make tight-window throws. Stafford did deliver a few of those, but you can’t put this much pressure on one guy. A large portion of the blame goes to the offensive line for creating barely any push and maybe their running backs could have done a little more individually. But my biggest issues were their play-designs and personnel grouping.
The Rams were in 11 personnel on 95 percent of their offensive snaps and they basically only ran inside or split zone, along with a couple of toss plays to Darrell Henderson (and he ripped off a team-best 18 yards). They simply need more variety and put themselves ahead of the chains, if they want to have any chance of repeating.
Check out my piece on the full Week 1 slate at halilsrealfootballtalk.com !