INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- All of the expectations in the world were on the Buffalo Bills' shoulders heading into the season-opening game against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night. And when the lights were the brightest, the Bills delivered in a big way, making a statement to the rest of the league and coming away with a 31-10 win at SoFi Stadium despite first-half mistakes.
"We knew how big of a deal it was for us," wide receiver Gabe Davis said. "We knew the stage that we were on. We knew that everybody would be watching and just know to play our game."
After going into halftime tied at 10, the Bills -- this season's Super Bowl favorites, according to Caesars Sportsbook -- went full steam ahead in the second half, scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions, while forcing two punts and intercepting quarterback Matthew Stafford twice in the second half alone.
The Bills went into the half tied despite two first-half interceptions by Allen, one of which bounced off wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, and a fumble by rookie running back James Cook on his first career NFL snap.
Allen said after the game, however, he was happy to end the second quarter tied even with the mistakes. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, in his first regular-season game in the role, rallied the team to start the second half on a strong note.
"[Dorsey] came in at halftime and he understood that we couldn't ride the roller coaster," wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. "There was gonna be ebbs and flows of the game. And as players and as a coach, he did some great things when he came in the locker room, calmed us down and said, 'Stop shooting ourself in the foot.'"
Allen led the way in the second half, including opening up the field in the fourth quarter, completing a pass of 47 yards to Davis and throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Diggs.
He finished 26-of-33 (83.9%) for 297 yards and three touchdowns. Allen's completion percentage broke the Bills' record for a regular-season game, previously set by Trent Edwards in 2008. He found success by getting rid of the ball quickly, averaging 2.47 seconds per drop-back on his passes, the second-fastest of his career, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Allen also was the team's leading rusher with nine carries for 57 yards and a score, despite questions on the team limiting his scrambling this season to keep him healthy.
"Limiting the hits, obviously slide and getting out of bounds, it's the utmost importance there," Allen said. "The best ability is availability, but again, when I'm called upon to do something for my team, I'm willing to do it."
The Bills' offense had success maintaining drives on third down, finishing 9-for-10 (90%), becoming the fourth team in the past 50 seasons to convert 90% of its third downs in a game. Three of their four touchdowns were scored on third down.
The defense gave Stafford fits, sacking him seven times, the most Stafford has been sacked as a Ram. All seven of the sacks came while sending four or fewer pass rushers, the Bills' second-most sacks when sending four or fewer rushers since ESPN began tracking pass rushers in 2006 (they had eight against Washington in 2011).
Two of the sacks came from Von Miller, who played in his first game as a Bill and against his former team, which he almost rejoined this offseason. Miller also had two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss, in addition to a 53.8% pass rush win rate, which led both teams
"I did everything I could possibly do to have success in this game, and today was fun," Miller said. "I didn't feel like I had anything to worry about. I already thought about things that possibly happen on the field. It was a great reception from everybody over there at the Ram side."
The Bills were able to generate pressure successfully without blitzing. By the fourth quarter, the Bills had only one blitz on 49 dropbacks (2%). Stafford was 0-3 last season when opponents blitzed less than 10% of the time. Greg Rousseau, Jordan Phillips, Boogie Basham and AJ Epenesa each had at least one sack.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver, however, suffered an ankle injury at the end of the first half and missed a majority of the game outside of returning for three snaps in the third quarter. He was wearing a walking boot on his right foot in the postgame locker room.
Los Angeles was able to stay in the game early thanks to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Cooper Kupp late in the second quarter, but the Rams were unable to get the offense going in the second half. The Bills' outpaced the Rams in total yardage 413-243.
L.A. became the third defending Super Bowl champion since 2004 to lose a Thursday season opener (teams were previously 14-2).
The Bills will now get a long break before hosting the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football in Week 2.
"I wouldn't really say it was a signature win. I would say it was the first game," Diggs said. "Because people win their first game and can lose every last one of them after that. So, try not to ride that wave. We did some good things, we had four turnovers. Four turnovers can cost you the game. Luckily our defense, they stepped up, they played a hell of a game. We got to continue to get better on offense. We did some good things but got to get back in the lab."