Rams need improvement everywhere after blowout loss to Bills – Winnipeg Free Press


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams’ honeymoon from their Super Bowl championship didn’t even last until the first Sunday of the next regular season.

Their 31-10 thrashing from the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night was a brutal reminder that last season’s title — and even the last half-decade of success under Sean McVay — guarantees the Rams nothing in a new year.

While Los Angeles still possesses elite talent, it couldn’t keep up with Buffalo, widely considered to be a top contender for the crown. The Rams’ best opponents will all be hungrier for what they have, and this blowout defeat was a quick reminder.

The opener also revealed the Rams have plenty of problems to solve if they hope to be considered among the NFL’s elite again this season. McVay attempted to blame himself, as usual, but almost every aspect of his team showed vast room for improvement.

“This was a humbling experience, but we’re going to stay connected,” McVay said. “We’re going to all look inward. We’re going to do a better job moving forward.”

Indeed, McVay has always been successful at persuading his players and coaches to remain aggressively focused on their goals. A wakeup call at the volume provided by the Bills should amplify McVay’s message in the coming weeks.

But this loss threw open the possibility that the Rams don’t even have the personnel to be among the NFL’s best teams. Los Angeles general manager Les Snead has been able to build a competent roster core below his superstars during several years spent drafting relatively low and infrequently, but those big loans against the future could be coming due.

The Rams’ offensive line frequently looked overmatched against Buffalo’s defensive front while Matthew Stafford struggled to get the ball to Los Angeles’ array of playmakers, with only Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp making a difference.

The defense forced three turnovers, but couldn’t force a punt and otherwise failed to stop Josh Allen, although that’s hardly a unique predicament. More dismaying was the lack of pressure on Allen from a defensive front that lost Von Miller to the Bills, along with an apparently cautious secondary that didn’t make enough big plays.

The Rams have a ton of work to do — and it’s fortunate that after a loss on opening night, they’ve got plenty of time to do it.

“The one thing that gives me a good feeling is knowing the guys in that locker room and knowing how we’re all going to band together, look at each other, look inward first and go, ‘Hey, what can I do to be better for the guy next to me?’” Stafford said. “That starts with our head coach. He’s always preaching that to us, and that’s real stuff for us as players.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Kupp followed one of the greatest seasons by a receiver in NFL history with 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. The AP’s Offensive Player of the Year remains uncoverable by most defenses, and Stafford’s connection with him remains strong.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Plenty, but the Rams’ offensive line was the most obvious. Along with Stafford’s seven sacks and 15 hits from a defense that didn’t even need to blitz once, Los Angeles rushed for only 52 net yards and was particularly ineffective running up the middle, McVay’s most frequent route. The Rams lost two Super Bowl starters on the line and replaced them from within, but the new group looked overmatched.

STOCK UP

Troy Hill marked his return to Los Angeles after a year in Cleveland with a team-high eight tackles and his first interception since 2020. He wasn’t perfect, but he made more plays than any other defender.

STOCK DOWN

All-Pro Jalen Ramsey allowed six of the seven passes thrown his way to be caught, including the 53-yard TD pass to Stefon Diggs to seal it. Plenty of factors contribute to such a number, but the Rams need Ramsey to be great after their talent appeared to decrease in the secondary for the second consecutive offseason.

INJURIES

Los Angeles didn’t immediately report any new problems, but Stafford’s throwing elbow will remain a concern until he shows it isn’t.

KEY NUMBER

0: Rushing yards by Cam Akers, the Super Bowl starter and the running back with the most explosive capabilities. The Rams say he isn’t hurt, but Akers played only 12 snaps and got three carries to Darrell Henderson’s 55 snaps and 13 carries.

NEXT STEPS

McVay and his staff have an extra-long week to address the flaws exposed by Buffalo, and McVay’s competitive fire is decidedly stoked. The Atlanta Falcons are projected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams, and their visit to SoFi Stadium next Sunday provides the Rams with a chance to get some things right.

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