TORONTO – There was plenty that bothered Buffalo coach Doug Marrone about the Bills’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday but the support in the stands at Rogers Centre wasn’t one of them.
Playing under a roof in Toronto instead of outdoors at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., was seen as a plus for the Falcons (3-9) who play at the Georgia Dome. But the Buffalo coach was happy with the north-of-the-border support.
“I thought the crowd today was good. They were on our side,” Marrone said of the announced attendance of 38,969 who were treated to an entertaining back-and-forth NFL game. “They were giving us the boost that we needed. They were trying to help us win. I thought the fans in Toronto did a nice job.”
The attendance was slightly more than the 35,418 who were at the CFL East final last month. Mayor Rob Ford took in both games, drawing a crowd of his own both times.
And while there were fans wearing both Bills’ and Falcons’ gear, plenty of other NFL teams were also represented when it came to jerseys Sunday.
Buffalo (4-8) jumped to a 14-0 lead but the Falcons rallied to tie it at 17-17 going into halftime. The teams traded touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter with Atlanta taking the lead in the third and Buffalo in the fourth, only to see their opponent respond with a tying touchdown.
The Falcons won on a 36-yard field goal from Matt Bryant three minutes into overtime.
Mistakes costs Buffalo in the end as the Bills’ regular-season record in Toronto dropped to 1-5.
“I’m hurting, I mean I am. I’m mad,” said Marrone. “I’m not going to sit here and try to come across (happy) and smile. I’m upset. There’s words that I can’t use to describe how I feel. But we’re going to get to a point, and I told this to the players, where it’s not going to come calls, it’s not going to come down to a drop, it’s not going to come down to this or that. We are going to work out butts off and become good enough where, you know what, that stuff doesn’t matter.
“And then we don’t have to sit here and make excuses or feel the way we feel. … We’re going to work to overcome that. That’s what we’re going to do.”
The Atlanta drive that led to overtime was helped by a pass interference call against cornerback Nickell Robey in the end zone. And fumbles by Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler, in the fourth quarter and overtime, killed off Buffalo drives.
Marrone said the Falcons did a good job dislodging the ball on both occasions. But he said there were many more factors in the loss.
“You want to see players make plays,” the coach said. “I think a lot of fingers are going to point at them. And that’s what I told the players afterwards, there’s a lot of things in that game that we can do a better job of.”
Marrone refused to bite on reporters’ questions about the interference call.
“You guys are trying to get me in trouble. I can’t do it. My wife will kill me.”
Robey was less reticent, calling it “a bad call.”
The Falcons came into the game on a five-game losing streak, beaten by Arizona, Carolina, Seattle, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Atlanta’s last win was Oct. 20, a 31-23 decision over the Bucs.
The Bills were coming off a 37-14 win over the New York Jets but had lost the three before that.
“We’re a good team. Period, no matter how this game went,” said Johnson, insisting the Bills will move on from this loss quickly.
“I don’t like what I’m about to say,” he added, “but we’ve been here before. So it’s not going to stick with us. Once the day’s over, it’s over. We’re got to move on to Tampa Bay.”
The Bills escape winter the next two weeks with games in Tampa and Jacksonville.
While the Bills sacked Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan six times, the Buffalo defence was on the field for long stretches. The Falcons led time of possession 38:09 to 24:51.
© The Canadian Press, 2013