Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Bills fumble away great opportunity in Toronto

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TORONTO — It was a game the Bills had in their grasp on several occasions. But when it mattered most, they couldn't hang on to the football.

The Bills (4-8) suffered an excruciating 34-31 loss in overtime to the Atlanta Falcons (3-9), a major blow to Buffalo's already slim playoff chances.

"I'm hurting. I am. I'm mad," head coach Doug Marrone said. "I'm not going to sit here and try to come across and smile. I'm upset. There's words that I can't use to describe how I feel."

With the game tied at 31, the Bills moved the ball into Atlanta territory with less than a 30 seconds to play. EJ Manuel connected on a pass to Stevie Johnson to the Falcons 30 yard line, but cornerback Robert McClain knocked the ball loose and Atlanta recovered to force overtime.

The Bills won the coin toss and had the ball first in overtime, but then it happened again. Manuel completed a pass to Scott Chandler, but Falcons safety William Moore forced a fumble, recovered by Atlanta.

"It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran or a rookie. You catch the ball and you tug it," Johnson said. "He made a play and that’s what we have to charge it to. It wasn’t like we had the ball loose or outside of our body. They made a good play and we have to commend them on it."

On the ensuing possession, Matt Bryant hit a 36-yard field goal to give the Falcons the win, sending the Bills home wondering what could have been.

"It's got to be the most frustrating one of the year, easily," Fred Jackson said. "You can tell by the way guys are in the locker room. We had that one and we gave it away."

The Bills led 14-0 in the first quarter, and 17-7 in the second quarter. Atlanta rallied to tie it at halftime, and took a 24-17 lead in the third.

Buffalo responded with touchdowns from Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to go up 31-24 in the 4th quarter.

Steven Jackson scored twice, including the game-tying touchdown with 1:28 remaining the game.

On a day when several of the teams that Buffalo is chasing in the playoff picture lost, the Bills let slip a chance to make up ground in the wild card race.

Spiller rushed for 149 yards and a score, while Fred Jackson found paydirt once on the ground and once through the air.

"When you're sitting there and you're in the hunt to make the playoffs, technically we're not out of it, but this was an opportunity to help our chances," Spiller said. "It's very frustrating that we didn't get it done."

The Bills travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers next Sunday at 1 p.m.

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