Bills hope Toronto is dome sweet dome

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
TORONTO -- The Buffalo Bills rode three hours on buses and had to stay overnight in a hotel for their home game. And they were in another country, no less.

But that's what the Bills sacrificed when they accepted $78 million to move eight games to Toronto over the next five years. They opened the series Thursday night with a 24-21 exhibition victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The domed Rogers Centre atmosphere sure didn't feel like a home game for the Bills, and one has to wonder what advantages they will forfeit here when they play games that determine whether they make the playoffs.

The Bills will "host" the Miami Dolphins in Toronto on Dec. 7 in what could be a critical contest for the Bills' playoff hopes.

"We were wearing the home jerseys, but still you're not used to the area and the stadium," Bills quarterback Trent Edwards said. "It's not Ralph Wilson Stadium. It's not open. It's not the same situation you're used to."

Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon was satisfied with the environment and with getting in a test run on a surface that's usually chalked off with a 110-yard field and 20-yard end zones.

"It's always good to get one under your belt," Brandon said. "Operationally and logistically, we went through a lot as an organization, but overall we're just extremely pleased."

But there appeared to be as many black-and-gold jerseys in the stands as there was Bills gear. Quite a few Terrible Towels were in full whirl. The cheers might've been a little louder for big Steelers plays.

For a franchise that honored "The 12th Man" on the Wall of Fame in the 73,967-seat Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills might surrender a serious edge for games that truly count.

Announced attendance Thursday night was 48,434, but that was tickets distributed. There were a lot of empty seats in the 54,000-seat configuration.

"I feel like this is our home game," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "We've been around and around about the circumstances that bring us here and the reasoning behind it. That's not my area. But I understand it, and I'm fully behind our organization and for our fans in Western New York to keep us viable and competitive."

When the Dolphins leave sun-drenched South Florida for Toronto in December, the arena formerly known as SkyDome probably will close its retractable roof to keep the setting nice and cozy. One hundred miles away, blustery elements likely will be swirling that afternoon in Orchard Park, N.Y.

When the schedule was announced in the spring, the Dolphins were ecstatic they were chosen as the opponents for the Toronto game.

"Coming over the stadium we seen a lot of Troy Polamalu jerseys," Bills safety Donte Whitner said. "We really don't want it to be that way. We want it to be lopsided, 99.9 percent Bills fans and maybe point-1 for Miami.

"But this is something we have to do. We have to regionalize the Buffalo Bills to keep them in Buffalo, so the fans can have their team."

Even if passports are needed to play at home.