Opportunistic Falcons beat Bills 34-31 in OT
TORONTO (AP) — Falcons safety William Moore looked into the crowd in Toronto and began wondering whether he was back home in Atlanta.
The domed setting was certainly familiar. And so were the numerous Falcons jerseys that dotted the crowd of the Rogers Centre.
“The crazy part is we had a lot of support here,” Moore said, noting he even saw someone wearing his No. 25 jersey. “It didn’t feel like we were in Canada.”
First, the Bills gave away their wintry home-field advantage by hosting the warm-weather Falcons in Buffalo’s annual home game north of the border. Then the Bills gave the ball away on each of their final two possessions, helping the Falcons secure a 34-31 win on Matt Bryant’s 36-yard field goal 3 minutes into overtime.
Moore set up the decisive score in a back-and-forth game by forcing a fumble on Buffalo’s second play in the extra period. He punched the ball out of the arms of Bills tight end Scott Chandler. The fumble was recovered by Robert Alford, who then lateraled it to Desmond Trufant, who returned it to Buffalo’s 47.
It was a near exact duplicate of how the Bills’ final drive of regulation ended.
Cornerback Robert McClain chased down receiver Stevie Johnson from behind and knocked the ball loose at the Falcons 30 with 20 seconds remaining.
Steven Jackson scored twice, including a 1-yard plunge with 1:28 left for the Falcons (3-9). Atlanta snapped a five-game skid and won for the first time in six road games this season. Antone Smith also scored on a 38-yard run, while Tony Gonzalez scored on an 11-yard pass from Matt Ryan.
“Our team needed that, so really needed that,” said Gonzalez. “It feels good. You should have seen the locker room in here after the game. All the guys were just happy, ecstatic.”
And Gonzalez certainly didn’t mind the neutral setting after he spotted several No. 88 jerseys in the stands.
“I didn’t know how many fans we’d have coming into Toronto. But I tell you what, it was great,” he said. “It makes it even sweeter when you can get the win like that.”
It was a familiar finish for the Bills (4-8), who are pretty much out of playoff contention for a 14th straight season, extending the NFL’s longest active streak. They will also finish their ninth straight season without a winning record.
In squandering a 14-0 lead, they dropped to 1-5 in games at Toronto since the series was first established in 2008, and then renewed for another five years in January.
“It’s tough, you know what I mean?” said Johnson. “We fought hard. We had the lead. It came down to execution. We executed, but they ended up making an intangible play to get the ball back.”
Chandler’s fumble was just as costly. EJ Manuel found him wide open on a crossing pattern at Buffalo’s 40 before the ball was knocked loose.
“Really disappointing,” Chandler said. “You hate to let the fans down and you really hate to let your teammates down.”
In losing, the Bills squandered a long-awaited breakout performance by C.J. Spiller, who finished with a season-best 149 yards rushing and a touchdown. Fred Jackson scored twice, on a 4-yard run and a 21-yard touchdown catch from Manuel.
Manuel finished 21 of 32 for 310 yards, and also scored on a 1-yard run.
There was plenty of entertainment for a game between two losing teams.
The Beach Boys, minus leader Brian Wilson, played the halftime show, and even embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford showed up, causing a stir late in the first quarter. Ford, who has admitted to smoking crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor,” arrived with just over five minutes left wearing a No. 22 Fred Jackson jersey just as Buffalo’s running back scored.
Few fans at midfield in the first level behind the Falcons’ bench saw the score, with many of them fixated on Ford’s arrival. Ford was flanked by his two personal security guards and with police officers and stadium security nearby. As he settled into his VIP-section seat, Ford was spotted munching on — what else? — a Buffalo chicken wing.
“I appreciate him showing his support for me, you know, wearing my jersey,” Jackson said. “With all the things going on, that still means a lot.”
NOTES: The announced paid attendance was 38,969, well short of the stadium’s NFL capacity of 46,470, not including suites. ...Atlanta receiver Roddy White had 10 catches for 143 yards to nearly double his season total. Ryan went 28 of 47 for 311 yards and a touchdown. ... Gonzalez’s TD was the 108th of his 17-year career, and first outside of the United States.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org