The Rams lost in blowout fashion against the Buffalo Bills in Week One. Should the team be concerned or is it all overreaction?
Last Thursday’s Week One opener was a bitter-sweet one for Los Angeles Rams fans. The glory of last year’s championship win was recognized and celebrated in style. The primetime slot, the banner, the stars… Everything was perfect! That is of course until the visiting Buffalo Bills trounced the reigning champions 31-10. This is when many fans took to Twitter to throw their hands up in submission. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Even as L.A. seeks a repeat, losing to the preseason Super Bowl favorite is NOT a death sentence for the season. And here’s why:
Why The Rams Shouldn’t Give In To Week One Overreactions
One: There’s plenty of late-season “boom” in store.
Third-year running back Cam Akers entered the season with massive pressure to return to his rookie year form after a devastating Achilles injury sidelined him for the majority of the 2021 season. He left the season opener with just three carries for no recorded yards.
Since this performance, Head Coach Sean McVay has had a working dialogue with Akers about an increased sense of urgency. It seems it has worked given his press conference last Wednesday “I like the way that [Akers] went through the first walkthrough of the week. I liked his focus and concentration in the meetings and I expect that to translate to practice”
So the idea is that he could be working more into his role so that he can lean more on the duo of Akers and fellow RB Darrell Henderson. Also, working into his offensive role; wide receiver Allen Robinson II. Robinson also finished his first game with his new team in a fairly lackluster fashion, catching only one pass for 12 yards on two attempts. What’s encouraging is his on-field presence. He ran 48 routes on 92 percent of offensive snaps (65 total.)
McVay has already made it a point that he wants to get the new six-foot-two wideout involved. Watching Robinson II garner more attention in practice and show off his capabilities as a ball-hound is encouraging for his future usage. Also, free agent WR Odell Beckham Jr. has been closely tied to the Rams all offseason and even appeared in SoFi donning blue and gold whilst holding the Lombardi Trophy week 1.
As the necessity for more targets is apparent, his remaining close is something for the Rams to feel good about. If he can have near the same impact he had on the team as he did last season, he’ll live in L.A. fan hearts for ages.
Two: “What hasn’t broke, we aren’t fixin’”
One thing is very apparent; WR Cooper Kupp is him. No matter the case, the guy just gets open and makes plays after the catch. Already known to be the center of this offense, and with little other offensive distraction, Kupp still managed to look in enough targets to propel his stat line to 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Stafford, while still having a tough go against PFF’s 2021 top-rated secondary, threw over 40 passes and still moved the ball. When throwing to Kupp he completed 87 percent of his passes. Plus we’ve seen this inefficiency met with game-busting volume. Last season when Stafford put up a three-interception game as he did Thursday, he responded the next two weeks by passing for a combined 547 yards and five TDs on a 70 percent completion rating.
A developing run game as well as multiple target connections being made should cure some of the unnecessary bombs he throws while under pressure. Speaking of pressure, that night superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald did exactly what he does best: distress the QB. He took home his 99th career sack, a QB hit, two tackles, and six QB pressures. His efficiency on pass plays amongst defensive tackles was unmatched, much like it has been since 2017.
It doesn’t stop there, even during his age-30 season last year he was still able to tie seventh for sacks (12.5) and had the second most total pressures in the NFL with 84, a category he leads by a wide margin over the past five years. Elite players are still putting the work in that big money pays them for. Finding your identity after an exodus of players and coaches over the offseason is to be expected. My point here? Studs are still studs.
Three: Rams are entering the easiest part of their “league’s hardest” schedule.
Ram opponents for the next five weeks are as follows:
- San Francisco
Atlanta is a team scraping together what they can to compete. Arizona is dealing with a suspension for their top wideout and showed signs of inefficiency in their own opener that they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 44-21. San Francisco is early in their QB development for first-year starter Trey Lance.
Another QB-questionable team, the Dallas Cowboys comes to visit in Week Five. QB Dak Prescott certainly won’t be back from surgery that corrected a broken hand he suffered in his Week One matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ending the “fluff” period is the Carolina Panthers, who couldn’t even seal a win versus the Jacoby Brissett-led Cleveland Browns.
As players like Akers and Robinson II work themselves into the offense during this period, one can only assume their confidence in themselves as well as an understanding of the offense overall, will result in higher usage. Taking that point a step further, said usage should aid the Rams in creating the more diverse offense McVay and his players thrive in. Alongside those players that are the cornerstone of this team, this team has little to worry about.
Preseason favorites are that for a reason; they look best on paper before the season has run its course. The Bills aren’t diamond-clad, and if the Rams get their way, they will see them again at the end of the season. Until then, both teams will have to play the entire regular season and grow into their own. The Bills game is a wake-up call, but given how the Rams players have responded it was a very humbling learning experience as well.
Linebacker Terrell Lewis tweeted, “Moving forward…” Kupp later similarly posted, “Reflect. Rectify. Respond.” And lastly, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, “The shake back gon be legendary, ain’t even sweating it!” So if the players aren’t worried, I wouldn’t be too upset at home or in the stands just yet. Certainly, it’s in all fans’ best interest to enjoy the championship reign and trust in McVay as they have for several winning-record years to date.