SPORTS

Bryant's field goal earns Falcons wild overtime victory over Buffalo Bills

12/01/2013 07:45 EST | Updated 01/31/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Safety William Moore helped the Atlanta Falcons snap an ugly five-game losing streak and added to the Buffalo Bills' misery at Rogers Centre.

Moore's forced fumble in overtime set up Matt Bryant's 36-yard field goal that earned Atlanta a wild 34-31 win over Buffalo on Sunday. It came after Moore's key fumble recovery in regulation that allowed the Falcons to run out the clock.

"It's just something I always want to do, run to the ball and be a playmaker," he said. "It's easy for a team that's 2-9 to lay down in overtime but we didn't do that."

Buffalo (4-8) fell to 1-5 during the regular season here as part of the Bills Toronto Series, which began in 2008 and was renewed in January for another five years. The Bills are 0-4 in December contests here.

Atlanta's first possession in overtime was at the Buffalo 50 after Moore stripped the ball from Bills' tight end Scott Chandler and it was recovered by Robert Alford, who lateralled to Desmond Trufant. The Falcons (3-9) drove to the Buffalo 17, setting up Bryant's game-winning boot before a series-low Rogers Centre gathering of 38,969.

"I like the way we took the ball away at the end of the game," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "Those (late turnovers) were critical plays.

"William was an active player in the game. When he gets around the ball he can be very disruptive."

Atlanta forced overtime with Steven Jackson's one-yard TD run — his second score of the game — with 1:28 remaining in regulation. It came after Buffalo's Nickell Robey was called for pass interference in the end zone.

Buffalo took over at its 24-yard line and was driving when E.J. Manuel hit Stevie Johnson with a completion. But Johnson was stripped of the ball and Moore recovered, allowing Atlanta to run out the clock for the series' first-ever overtime game.

"I knew the game was on the line and we had to force some turnovers," Moore said. "They made a huge catch to get deep in field-goal range and it was all or nothing, you've got to make a play there."

Atlanta rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit playing on the road in a different country. But Moore said the support the Falcons received from spectators made them feel at ease.

"It didn't feel like we were in Canada," he said. "I even saw a No. 25 jersey (Moore's number) out there.

"We're a dome team and it was huge for us to get our first win on the road. Now for us to go on the road to Green Bay I think we take this momentum and try to do something with it."

As has been the case throughout the series, the crowd was a mix of NFL fans. Spectators wore a myriad of different jerseys and cheered as loudly for the Falcons as they did for the Bills although they were noticeably louder each time Atlanta faced a third-down conversion.

"There were a few third downs where it got pretty loud and we had to go into our silent cadence," said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. "Communication was a little bit more difficult but I thought the atmosphere was pretty good."

Even with the roof closed — good considering the rainy, wet conditions outside — spectators weren't nearly as loud and rabid as fans in Orchard Park, N.Y., can be. And playing indoors robbed Buffalo of its biggest home advantage, the cold windy conditions that are the norm this time of year at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"We're beating a dead horse," said Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams. "But at the end of the day we're in perfectly good position to win the ball game no matter where we were."

The loss tarnished a solid performance by Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller, who ran for 149 yards and a TD despite an ankle injury. His 36-yard touchdown run at 3:12 of the fourth snapped a 24-24 deadlock.

Even with The Beach Boys performing at halftime, the game drew less than the 40,770 who watched Seattle dispatch Buffalo 50-17 a year ago. Included was Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who wore a No. 22 Fred Jackson jersey. Rogers Centre has a seating capacity of about 54,000 for football.

Last month, 35,418 — including Ford — watched the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeat the Toronto Argonauts 36-24 in the East Division final at Rogers Centre.

Ryan was 28-of-47 passing for 311 yards and a touchdown despite being sacked six times. Veteran Roddy White had 10 catches for 143 yards while Jackson had 84 yards rushing on 23 carries as Atlanta's offence held the ball for about 38 minutes.

Buffalo rookie E.J. Manuel was 18-of-32 passing for 210 yards and a TD. Chandler was Buffalo's leading receiver with 63 yards on four catches.

"It definitely stings," Manuel said. "I don't think we gave the game away.

"We fought back, we understood the situation, we had the opportunity to get the field goal and we didn't . . . we just didn't make enough plays."

Bills head coach Doug Marrone found it hard to hide his bitter disappointment with the loss.

"I'm hurting, I mean I am," he said. "I'm mad, I'm not going to sit here and try to come across and smile and everything.

"I'm upset."

Buffalo's roster featured two Canadians: rookie defensive lineman Stefan Charles, a Toronto native who grew up in Oshawa, Ont., and veteran linebacker Jamaal Westerman, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but grew up in Brampton, Ont. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff grew up in Guelph, Ont., and played at the University of Guelph.

Fred Jackson, with two, and Manuel scored Buffalo's other touchdowns. Dan Carpenter added the converts and a field goal.

Antoine Smith also had a touchdown for Atlanta. Bryant booted the converts and another field goal.

The Bills Toronto Series was unveiled as an attempt to show Toronto was a viable NFL city. Rogers Communications Inc. paid US$78 million to stage eight games — five regular season, three exhibition — expecting southern Ontario fans to flock to Rogers Centre.

But high-priced tickets — initially averaging over $180 each, compared to roughly US$51 at Orchard Park — and struggling Bills teams have made it a tough sell. Tickets have been reduced to roughly an average price of $99 to make the game more affordable, but that's not yet resulted in a sellout.

Organizers continue to try to find the right formula to re-create the NFL experience here. A huge attraction for many American football fans is arriving at the stadium hours before kickoff, set up the barbecue to cook a variety of foods while throwing a football around in the parking lot or breaking down the upcoming game with friends over a cold beer.

But provincial laws make that impossible here. And again security officers searched fans and their bags checked before entering the stadium, creating some long backlogs.

This weekend, a number of events were held Saturday and prior to Sunday's kickoff, Armed Forces soldiers rappelled from the stadium roof roof before most fans had settled into their seats.

Once again, there were no corporate logos on the turf — only the Bills crest at centre field and their team name in both end zones. And the Jumbotron ran during plays, allowing fans to watch the on-field action, something that never happens during Argos contests.

As has been the case throughout the series, large banners covered the hotel windows overlooking the field, preventing hotel guests from watching like they could during CFL games.

MORE:cpSports