The Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams kick off the NFL season Thursday, September 8th. FOOTBALL IS BACK BABY! If ever there were a game that could make you salivate waiting for kickoff, this would be it. Last season’s Super Bowl champs will be hosting the projected 2022 SB winner. Does it get any better?
Okay, hold your horses sports fans. Before we get into the actual game preview, we should look back at how these two teams finished their season last year.
Los Angeles Rams (12-5, Super Bowl Champions)
Super Bowl LVI – Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s start with a quick overview/recap of the biggest game of 2021, SB LVI. The Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl opponents were a team that nobody gave a chance even to make the postseason, let alone the Super Bowl. The Cincinnati Bengals did the unimaginable and made it to the biggest show on turf: SB LVI!
LA won by three after a Stafford TD pass to Kupp, putting them ahead for good. The bigger question, however, is how the Los Angeles Rams allowed the Bengals to stay in the game. Burrow was not overly sharp on the night and missed some important throws, squandering opportunities to increase the lead. What happened to make it so close? Why couldn’t Joe Burrow connect with his stud receivers? Why didn’t Los Angeles win by 14? Two major contributing factors led to a low-scoring, 23-20 victory for the Rams. Those factors were Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford. One of them was excellent when he had to be, while the other one was very mediocre.
Aaron Donald, God of Football
Defensively the Rams did their Job, holding Cincinnati to 20 points and limiting Burrow to just 263 yards. The biggest play of the entire game came with 43 seconds left. The Bengals were just inside the Rams 50 yard line and needed to convert a 4th & 1 to keep the drive alive. The hope was to get close enough for McPherson to kick the game-tying field goal with the clock expiring. The only obstacle was #99 (no, not Gretzky, but Aaron Donald might be the NFL version of him).
The best players make the crucial plays when it counts the most. If Burrow had converted the 1st down, the game was assuredly headed to overtime. Instead, Donald burst through the line like a hot knife through butter and got to Burrow. The play was technically an incompletion, but it was as close to a sack as it comes. The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl because of the little engine that (always) could.
Anemic Los Angeles Rams Offense
Matt Stafford had a similar stat line to Joe Burrow that night. He finished the game 26/40 for 283/2 with two interceptions. OBJ was injured during the game, and even though he was not the focal point, he got the ball rolling for the Los Angeles Rams offense with a TD six minutes into the game. His absence certainly impacted the offense, but it should not have resulted in a mediocre Rams stat line. Overall, the Rams Offense was fairly tepid. The Rams won, and Cooper Kupp was the MVP. Los Angeles did, however, show that they were not the invincible juggernaut everyone thought they were.
No Certainty in Football
Entering the game, I fully expected the Los Angeles Rams to dominate the game and easily take home the Lombardi. The NFL reminded us, once again, that there is no such thing as a sure thing in football.
Buffalo Bills (11-6, AFC East Division Champs)
Buffalo entered 2021 with hopes, even expectations, of ending the season showered in confetti and champagne. The Bills finished the season with an impressive 11-6 record, winning their division and making the playoffs. They ended their season by playing in one of the most entertaining games in the entire history of the NFL. The Bills almost made it to the AFC Championship game in back-to-back seasons. By all accounts, the Bills’ 2021 season should be a source of pride and accomplishment. For any other club, fans would be elated and ecstatic about the future of their team but not for Buffalo. The Bills’ season will forever be marred by a 13-second stretch of pure mind-boggling defensive play at the end of the 4th quarter.
With barely any time left in regulation, Josh Allen connected with Gabe Davis in the endzone for a TD leaving only 13 seconds on the clock for KC to mount a comeback. Bills fans around the globe were cheering, jumping up and down (and through tables). The game was all but over. Buffalo just had to keep the Chiefs at bay for 13 seconds and they were off to the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. LET’S GO BUFF-ALO!! I was certainly one of those elated Mafia members. However, there was a small part of me that was unsettled.
After the TD pass to Davis, my wife and I high-fived each other and began to dream of a second straight AFC Championship game berth. I then turned to her and said, “I’m still nervous for some reason.” She laughed at me and said, “come on, what could possibly happen in 13 seconds?” Call it trauma from watching my heroes lose four Super Bowls in a row, but my stomach was aching while waiting for the clock to run out.
In the end, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce had all the space they needed with three time-outs left to put the Chiefs into Field Goal range. Harrison Butker kicked the tying field goal, and then Kansas City won the game in overtime.
Greatest Game Ever?
Was this the best game in the history of the NFL? What are the criteria to become the best game ever? Firstly, there’s the pure excitement leading up to the game. Then the performances on the field, players showing off like they were using the skill stick in Madden. Finally, you have the intensity and tension buildup stemming from a titanous battle on the field. The all-out war forces you to chew your fingernails off and simultaneously cheer until you have no voice left.
There isn’t a person alive who watched that game who can argue that Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes didn’t put on a spectacular performance. The game was back and forth for the full 60 minutes leading up to the KC win in overtime. There will be arguments and discussions about what truly was the best game ever for years to come. However, these two teams put on such a spectacular performance that it is in the conversation with games like the 1981 NFC title game between the 49ers and Cowboys or SB XLIX between the Patriots and Seahawks. No matter which side you cheer for, this was a game for the ages!
Both the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills ended the 2021 season as powerhouses within their own divisions and conferences. Each team enters the 2022 season with confidence and sky-high expectations. The Rams are looking to become back-to-back champions in 2022, and the Bills are looking to get over the hurdle and make it to the final dance. Can they do it? Can Buffalo not only make it to the Super Bowl but can they fulfill everyone’s expectations and win it all? Will it be against the Rams? Could the Rams do what so few teams have done before and hoist the Lombardi two years in a row? It is certainly possible! It all starts next week in Inglewood.
Keep your eyes on Sportsobsessive.com for my Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Rams week one preview. It’s coming soon and will not disappoint!
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