Bills warm to Toronto - The Buffalo News

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Bills warm to Toronto

Sunday’s forecast for Orchard Park calls for a high of 36 degrees, with a 30 percent chance of snow showers and winds at 14 mph.

Sunday’s forecast inside the Rogers Centre calls for an unwavering 72 degrees, with 0 mph wind.

That’s what the Buffalo Bills are sacrificing by farming out a home game to Toronto in the name of regionalization.

Buffalo will be the “home” team for the sixth time as part of the Bills in Toronto series Sunday when it hosts the Atlanta Falcons at 4:05 p.m.

“It’s going to be a little bit different, but hopefully we’re going to go up there and continue to play well and go win a football game,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “Maybe things change if we go up there and play a really solid, complete football game.”

That’s something that has been far too rare in the Bills’ first five trips north. Buffalo is just 1-4 in Toronto games, and last season was embarrassed, 50-17, by the Seattle Seahawks.

While the series has been a success off the field - the team was paid $78 million for the first set of seven games (two preseason, five regular season) and season tickets among those from Southern Ontario are up nearly 10 percent, according to the organization - the atmosphere in each of those four losses in Rogers Centre is best described as bleak.

“I tried to address that early and kind of get that out of our minds. There are a lot of poor things we as a football team have done,” said coach Doug Marrone, who will be making his Toronto debut, but has reviewed film of the team’s games there. “What I look at is, I try to make sure when I speak to the team is to avoid whatever people want to say. Whether it be the field, playing indoors, whether it’s an away game there. That’s not who we are. That’s not what our core is. Our core is to go up there and win.”

Marrone, who said the issue of playing in a glorified neutral site did not come up when he interviewed for the job, does not look at moving a game from Ralph Wilson Stadium to the Rogers Centre as a competitive disadvantage for his team.

“I think it’s a great opportunity, I really do,” he said. “I think it’s a great venue. ... You have to play well. If you go up there and don’t play well, I don’t think you can ever make that turn to where it’s a true-home field advantage. If you do, you can create a great atmosphere up in Toronto. Those fans will eventually come down here and you create a better atmosphere right here. Collectively, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Falcons should have no trouble getting comfortable Sunday. They play at least nine games a year inside - eight in the Georgia Dome and another on the road against NFC South opponent New Orleans.

“It’s something that we’re familiar with, a lot more familiar with 72 degrees and no wind than the weather you sound like you guys are having right now,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I don’t know that we catch an edge. Both teams have to go out and play. They have to play in the same elements that we do so I don’t believe anybody gets an advantage.”

Bills running back Fred Jackson, however, slightly disagreed.

“They’re a dome team, so they’ll be accustomed to it. I’m sure it would be a lot different to come out here and play in the Ralph than it would be to go out there and play in the Rogers Centre, so yeah we do lose that advantage,” Jackson said. “But we’re all in a dome. We have to take advantage of playing in that and make some plays when we get that opportunity to.”

The Bills should have an opportunity to get their running game going. The Falcons have allowed 166 yards per game on the ground over the past five weeks - all losses.

“It’s something we feel like we can take advantage of in the run game,” Jackson said.

Players have in the past have complained about the footing on the artificial turf inside the Rogers Centre. In an effort to get accustomed to that - along with the lighting - the Bills will practice in Toronto on Saturday.

“With the lighting, when the ball goes up and down for these receivers, sometimes it’s hard for them to kind of judge where the ball is going to fall,” quarterback EJ Manuel said. “I think that’s the first thing you need to do, is some drills with the receivers, throwing the ball up and down, so they can kind of get a gist of how the ball is going to come from the sky.”


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