Rams

What we learned from Rams’ 30-19 loss to the Buffalo Bills

Robert Quinn, William Hayes and Michael Brockers are indispensable

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has said the Rams don’t have backups.

OK, but there is still a starting lineup. And it usually includes the most productive players.

Without the injured Quinn, Hayes and Brockers, Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy ran for 150 yards and Tyrod Taylor extended plays and passed for two touchdowns.

Those called upon to play in place of the injured trio gave their best effort. But there is a difference when they are not available.

And it showed.

Todd Gurley showed signs of coming on

Wait, what? Gurley fumbled twice, and the Bills turned one of his miscues into a touchdown.

Gurley acknowledged the mistakes were inexcusable.

But Gurley also showed progress.

He rushed for 72 yards in 23 carries and scored the Rams’ only touchdown.

He broke free for a 16-yard gain and attempted what has thus been a rare cutback. He also caught three passes for 36 yards.

Greg Zuerlein likes to kick in the Coliseum

Zuerlein kicked three field goals in the home opener against the Seattle Seahawks, providing the Rams with all of their points in a 9-3 victory.

On Sunday, he converted from 37, 32, 54 and 22 yards.

After making only 20 of 30 field-goal attempts last season, the Rams were concerned about Zuerlein’s dependability.

Zuerlein has made all nine field-goal attempts and all seven extra points.

Michael Thomas is contributing on special teams

Thomas, a receiver drafted in the sixth round, got the opportunity to return three kickoffs because Benny Cunningham was inactive because of a hamstring injury.

Thomas averaged 20.7 yards per return.

Thomas has been at his best on coverage teams.

Case Keenum must avoid pick sixes

Yes, that’s obvious.

But it bears a mention because Keenum has had two intercepted passes returned for touchdowns in the last three games.

Keenum’s miscue at Tampa Bay did not keep the Rams from winning.

But Nickell Robey-Coleman’s pick six on Sunday broke a halftime tie and set the Bills on their way to victory.

Keenum completed 21 of 31 passes for 271 yards, with two interceptions, against the Bills.

He has passed for four touchdowns, with five interceptions.

Tavon Austin can line up anywhere

Offensive coordinator and play-caller Rob Boras seemed intent on making sure that Keenum and Austin began connecting.

Austin caught a season-high seven passes.

He also rushed for 26 yards in three carries. Austin ran from the I-formation and also on a fly-sweep.

Penalties kill drives, and they are especially costly in the red zone

The Rams’ first drive was moving along just fine until guard Rodger Saffold was flagged for a false start on third and eight at the 14. After the penalty, a pass fell incomplete and the Rams settled for a field goal.

Saffold was called for holding on first and goal at the eight, but the Bills declined the penalty because the Rams had lost five yards on the play.

The Rams eventually settled for a field goal.

Trick plays that work in practice don’t always work in games

The Rams tried a fake punt on fourth and five with less than four minutes left, but the Bills stopped receiver Bradley Marquez short of the first down.

Coach Jeff Fisher stuck by the decision, saying that kind of approach on special teams “has taken us a long ways.”

That’s true. The Rams have pulled off some dynamic special teams plays under Fisher during his four-plus seasons.

And remember, this is the coach who called for what became known as the Music City Miracle play that helped the Tennessee Titans defeat the Bills in a playoff game in 2000.

But Sunday’s decision did not work out.