You don’t get to play in the NFL’s season-opening Thursday night game without having some stars on your team. Both the Bills and the Rams came into game number one with a galaxy’s worth of stars.
Only the Bills stars actually played like it. (Except Cooper Kupp, who always gets his)
This might be a bit different Sean McDermott team. Bills football of recent vintage has been replete with overachieving lunch pail guys who do their 1/11th. This team still has plenty of those players, but there are also now stars everywhere. Why settle for 1/11th when you can have a few guys that are more than happy to handle 14/11ths.
Von Miller has been one of those guys for the better part of a decade and it took exactly one drive in blue and red before Bills fans got to see exactly why. Miller’s sack short-circuited a promising Rams opening possession and was the springboard for a seven sack night from the Bills defensive line. Miller ended up with two of them.
This is exactly why the Bills paid Miller all that money. He’s a quarterback terror on his own, but the hope was he would also open things up for other guys. There’s no telling exactly how much of an impact Miller had on the Bills other five sacks in this game, but it’s probably a number greater than zero.
Miller’s debut wasn’t just a regular old season opener. It was against all his former Rams teammates. In a big spot on the national stage, Miller was dominant in a way Brandon Beane probably exactly dreamed about when he dropped that giant contract on the future Hall of Famer.
Right after Miller are two of the usual suspects on offense: Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs.
It seemed like Allen flipped a switch in the second half. The Bills moved the ball pretty well in the first half, but only had 10 points to show for it. Three mistakes became three turnovers and kept the Rams in the game.
Allen was a little more hands-on with the offense in the second half. Nine of his 10 rushes came after halftime. Over and over, Allen took control of a big spot and got the job done.
It started with a third down scramble in the middle of the tiebreaking touchdown drive that opened the second half for Buffalo. An incredibly underrated play when the Rams still had fuel from a strong first half finish.
The fourth quarter began with a deep ball to Gabriel Davis that converted another third and long. Three plays later, Allen was converting 3rd and goal with a signature scramble, leap and figure it out in the air move. Even his rolling, deep ball touchdown to Diggs was a third-down win.
And yet, all of that didn’t get nearly the love from fans (and teammates) as the real highlight of the game–Allen stiff-arming defensive back Nick Scott into the sideline.
It’s one thing to play quarterback well. It’s another thing to play quarterback well and physically impose your will on a variety of defensive players. Dion Dawkins said that Allen is a quarterback in an offensive lineman’s body.
“He’s a tank. Josh The Tank Allen. That’s what I’m gonna call him,” Dawkins said.
Allen took a lot of punishment with all those carries in the second half. Devin Singletary said that Allen was laughing at defenders as they took their shots. A quarterback that can dominate the football part of football and the mental toughness part of football gets to play without fear. Josh Allen without fear had the defending Super Bowl champions on a string most of the night.
Which is exactly the same thing Diggs did to All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey. In a matchup of great players, Diggs made Ramsey look anything but. Six catches for over 100 yards and the touchdown during plays where Ramsey was defending Diggs. According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey allowed a perfect quarterback rating on balls thrown his way. Pretty sure Sean McVay was expecting a little more from his number one pass defender.
This is what champion teams do. Not only do their stars beat the average players, they beat other teams’ stars. The Bills’ stars carried their team on a night that was actually relatively sloppy otherwise. I’m sure Sean McDermott would prefer to avoid trying to win games with four turnovers moving forward. When you have players on the level of Miller and Allen and Diggs, the margin for error grows exponentially.
The Buffalo hype train that was gaining speed all summer rolled right through Los Angeles without barely hitting a bump and the Rams ended up like Marty McFly’s DeLorean.
Wait until this locomotive gets to Buffalo.