Toronto games become no-win situation for Bills - The Buffalo News
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Toronto games become no-win situation for Bills

Just 10 minutes into last Sunday’s game in Toronto, the Buffalo Bills had a 14-0 lead on the Atlanta Falcons.

There is no way the 2-9 Falcons hang tough and win that game if it’s played in Orchard Park, in the cold and wind, with the home crowd in a frenzy. No way.

Everybody in the Bills’ organization knows it. That’s why Russ Brandon’s comments this week about giving the Toronto series a “grand review” after the season have to be viewed as more than just a bone being thrown to the players and the fans.

Upon further consideration, there is a good chance the Bills are going to work to get out of the deal.

The players don’t like it and never are going to like it, because they recognize it doesn’t help them win. After six years, not one bit of progress has been made in making Rogers Centre any kind of home-field advantage for Buffalo, despite the efforts of the Bills and their Canadian partner, Rogers Communications.

Can the Bills get out of the last four years of the deal without too much expense? Hard to say. But it’s possible, because the deal has to be a big money loser for Rogers.

The announced crowd was 38,969. That was at least 10,000 shy of a sellout and an embarrassment to the Bills and Rogers. There probably were not more than 25,000 in the stands at kickoff.

To its credit, Rogers adopted a policy of not handing out complimentary tickets starting last year. But our understanding is Rogers was forced to hand out comp tickets in the days leading up to the game to make the building less empty. Who knows what the average ticket costs? But if Rogers sold 30,000 tickets at an average of $100 a ticket, that’s only $3 million. Rogers paid the Bills $9.75 million a game over the first five years of the deal.

It would be somewhat embarrassing for the Bills to go back to their NFL partners and tell them they’re pulling the plug. The Bills sold the other 31 teams on the fact a Toronto game was critical to their market, Toronto was part of their territory, and this was going to be better for the visiting team’s revenue pool.

The funny thing is Canadian fans love coming to The Ralph. Maybe Brandon, the Bills president and chief executive officer, can mitigate the sting by telling the owners how that has increased and how it could increase even more with more marketing to Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula.

Take this to the bank: If they stick it out the next four years, a loss in Toronto is going to cost them a playoff seed or a playoff spot.

Player Spotlight

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago. The Bears’ second-year wideout looks like an awful matchup for Dallas’ suspect secondary in Monday night’s game at Soldier Field. Jeffery is an interesting draft case study. Entering his third season at South Carolina, he was viewed as a sure-fire No. 1 pick and maybe even a top-12 prospect. Some Buffalo fans had their eyes on him. He had 88 catches for 1,517 yards in 2010.

South Carolina had QB problems in 2011, splitting duties between Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw. Jeffery didn’t make many plays down the field, especially after Shaw took over the second half of the season. Jeffery finished with 49 catches for 762 yards. At 6-foot-2≥ and 220 to 230 pounds, the worry among scouts was his separation ability.

Mike Williams, the 10th pick in 2005 out of Southern Cal, is the poster boy for big receivers who can’t separate. He was a bust for Detroit. Williams is 6-5 and played about 235. He ran the 40 in 4.56 seconds. Jeffery got down to 216 for his pro day and ran 4.49. His natural weight is closer to 230.

Credit Chicago GM Phil Emery for “trusting his eyes” and taking Jeffery 45th overall last year. Jeffery caught only 24 passes for 367 yards in 10 games as a rookie last year. But this year he has busted loose, with 70 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. His 12-catch, 249-yard game against the Vikings last week was his fifth 100-yard game of the season.

Odd FG call

From the Bizarre Coaching Calls Department comes the decision last week by Chicago’s Marc Trestman to try a 47-yard field goal on a second-and-7 situation early in overtime in Minnesota. Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed, and the Vikings won on the ensuing possession.

Why kick on second down with 4:12 left in OT?

“There wasn’t analytics involved as much as it was, we’re clearly in his range,” Trestman said. “And we’re in the middle of the field.”

Maybe there should have been analytics involved. Trestman, who we like a lot, said he was concerned about a negative play on second or third downs putting the Bears out of field goal range. Gould has made about 73 percent from that range. Surely, there wasn’t a 27 percent chance the Bears would net a yardage loss on second and third downs.

Tentative in Indy

It’s hard to believe how bad running back Trent Richardson has been for the Colts since his October trade from Cleveland. Richardson was averaging a mere 3.4 yards on 31 carries for the Browns. He’s averaging 2.8 on 108 carries for the Colts. Indy’s line is bad. Richardson is tentative hitting the holes. Still, it’s hard to understand. Donald Brown has averaged 5.3 yards a carry behind the same line (on 71 attempts). The Colts finally demoted Richardson behind Brown for this week’s game in Cincinnati.

“It’s only fair that Donald be the starter, especially with the production he’s been putting up,” said Richardson. “He’s been playing good ball.”

Richardson, the third overall pick in 2012, averaged 5.8 yards a carry running behind an All-America line at Alabama.

Onside kicks

• Peyton Manning is back on pace to surpass Drew Brees’ single-season passing yardage mark of 5,476. Manning is on pace for 5,500. Manning’s pace for 54 TD passes would break Tom Brady’s mark of 50.

• The teams with the best records over the final four games of the season since 2008: New England (18-2), San Diego (17-3), Indianapolis (15-5), Atlanta, Baltimore and San Francisco (14-6).

• The Eagles’ Nick Foles has 19 TDs and no interceptions. The longest such streak to open a season is by Manning (20 and 0).

• The Saints’ Jimmy Graham needs one more 100-yard game for his seventh of the season, which would be the most ever by a tight end.

• Good thing the Browns didn’t succumb to speculation and trade receiver Josh Gordon. He needs 40 more yards to pass Braylon Edwards’ team receiving yards record (1,289).

• It will be interesting to see how Miami’s Ryan Tannehill fares in Pittsburgh today against Dick LeBeau’s defense. The Steelers have been playing better and are 11th vs. the pass.


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