LOS ANGELES – 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.
“Did that bother me? Of course,” McVay said Friday. “You wake up with a pit in your stomach, and the only way I know how to get rid of that thing is to go back to work, and work hard for these players and coaches.”
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 hungry for what the champs have, and perhaps even hungrier.
“That's an easy excuse to make, but I wouldn't say that," McVay said. “Our guys were ready to go. I just think there were a lot of instances where we didn't execute to our full capacity.”
Motivation and hunger aside, 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 loss even 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 largely without high draft picks, 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 Rams got even worse news about that line Friday with injuries to center Brian Allen and left tackle Joseph Noteboom.
Allen will be out for at least two weeks after undergoing a “procedure to remove loose bodies from his knee" on Friday, while Noteboom strained his knee ligaments, McVay said. Noteboom isn't expected to miss Week 2.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Right guard Coleman Shelton will move to center in Allen's absence, and Tremayne Anchrum will step in at right guard, McVay said. The Rams don't expect Noteboom to miss playing time, but A.J. Jackson will play left tackle if he does. ... Rookie RB Kyren Williams will have surgery on a high ankle sprain after getting hurt early in his NFL debut. He will be out six to eight weeks. ... Long snapper Matt Orzech strained his calf.
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. McVay also said Friday that the Rams wanted to get Williams involved on offense before the injury ruined the plan.
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 Rams host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and McVay said the opener can be nothing more than “a little blip on the radar” if Los Angeles responds properly.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL