Tonawanda News

Sports

March 5, 2014

Bills put Toronto series on hold

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — The postponement doesn't come as a total surprise after questions were raised following the Bills' 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta at Toronto on Dec. 1. A few days later, Brandon wondered whether his team loses a home-field advantage by playing in Toronto.

Brandon reiterated those concerns on Wednesday.

"We're trying to build a fan-base north of the border and, last year, I would say it was a neutral ground," Brandon said.

He acknowledged that the Bills losing record has not helped.

"It's been a roller coaster from the standpoint of the losses and that's on us," Brandon said. "We have not played well up there. We have to take responsibility for that."

Bills players have complained about playing in what they regarded as a neutral-site setting and giving up a game in the far more raucous atmosphere at Orchard Park. The Bills also lost the edge they have in playing in the wintry elements at their outdoor home.

Receiver Steve Johnson questioned whether the warm-weather Falcons "fixed" the schedule in getting to play indoors. Center Eric Wood had referred to the games in Toronto as "a joke."

Despite the troubles, Brandon noted the Bills have enjoyed a notable increase in fans from Toronto and across southern Ontario attending games at Orchard Park since the start of the series.

Brandon estimated that about 18 percent of fans attending home games are from Ontario. That's about double than what it was before the series, and a few percentage points more than what the team draws from nearby Rochester.

While the games in Toronto are on hold, the Bills' objective to grow their market outside of Buffalo remains a priority.

"Regionalization is a key lever for us moving forward and the Toronto marketplace and southern Ontario are a key element to that," Brandon said.

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