6:05 — We’re all set up, with about 90 minutes until game time. The Bills and Steelers are on the field warming up, and the stadium’s about this full:
6:15 — We spent some time at the “Tailgate party” across the street, which was actually not too bad. Beers were $6 and several guys in their fifties told me they were asked for I.D. Canadians are reluctant to let people drink in the streets, so it’ll take baby steps before we stop carding seniors. Here are some shots from the pregame festivities:
6:25 — Multiple reports coming from the tailgate party say they are out of beer. That’s never good an entire hour before the game. Once again, Canadians are new to this whole tailgating thing.
6:30 – We’ve been told that the police cut the beer off at the tailgate party at around 6:15. How ridiculous. Good attempt at a party, guys. People up here are just too uptight to relax and enjoy during an event like this. It’s a shame.
6:35 — Based on what we saw at the tailgate party, the concert at Yonge-Dundas Square and the reaction the team got when taking the field for warmup, this is bordering on being a pro-Steelers crowd. They travel well and have a great fan base in Toronto.
6:55 – Back from dinner. Tony Ambrogio pointed out that the windows overlooking the stadium from the Renaissance Hotel have been blocked by large banners. We’d heard wind of people getting rooms rather than paying for tickets, which would probably be more expensive. Sucks for those folks.
6:56 — The stadium’s filling up nicely. Here’s a shot. Notice the covers over the hotel windows in the upper right:
7:10 — They’ve closed the roof at the Rogers Centre. We’re outraged. 40% chance of rain.
7:20 – Facts you only get in the press notes, unless you really research: There have been 16 NFL games played in Canada.
The most recent game played north of the border was in Vancouver. San Francisco beat Seattle, 24-21. The Bills have played twice in Canada, both in Toronto in the 1990s. They went 1-1 against the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, but failed to score a touchdown in either game.
7:25 – For what it’s worth, Jerome Bettis has predicted a Steelers’ win by a 24-17 score.
7:30 – Here’s a look at the stadium during introductions. Far from full:
7:35 – I haven’t heard the Rogers Centre this loud in a long time, despite the batches of empty seats. Nothing cooler than hearing the crowd sing along during the Canadian national anthem.
7:36 – This is definitely a Bills crowd, despite a heavy Steelers representation.
7:37 — Kickoff. The controversial and hyped series begins.
7:40 – Rod Mawhood thinks there are 5,000 empty seats in the upper deck. I think he’s about right.
7:42 – The scorebug on the TV broadcast fails to indicate that the Steelers are playing in the game. I see the Bills name and the Bills logo, but nothing else. What’s up with that?
7:46 – The crowd sure enjoyed that Donte Whitner pick. Whitner could be a major player in this defence in 2008.
7:48 – Another nice nugget from Mawhood: he overheard a Steelers fan say earlier today that Willie Parker would run for “a buck 20″ tonight. Let’s hope he was from Pittsburgh and not Toronto.
7:53 – Trent Edwards to Robert Royal: the first Bills touchdown in Toronto. It only took nine quarters and over a decade to happen. They’re playing the Bills shout song in the Rogers Centre and the crowd is into it. Perfect start for the Bills and Toronto.
8:00 – This is as full as she’s getting:
We figure there are a load of empty seats above us, but we can’t see through concrete.
8:16 – Edwards struggled in the Bills’ first preseason game, but it appears he needed some Canadian air to get back on track. He hits Royal, who’s on pace to score six touchdowns tonight.
11 plays, 90 yards in 6:43: not a bad drive for the Bills.
8:20 – Not only are the hotel windows blocked, but so are the windows from the Hard Rock Cafe. In the right corner, though, one clever diner discovered that he could lift the cover. Genius, just genius:
8:27 – Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes wakes up the Steelers fans. That’ll probably be Big Ben’s final throw of the day, but what a beauty play it was on both ends. The air had kind of come out of the building after the initial excitement, but that touchdown might change things.
8:30 – J.P. Losman has come on for the Bills. Bettis mentioned prior to the game that he was excited to see Losman play and that he could be a factor in helping the Bills get back to the playoffs. Many who were listening became confused. We’re hoping Bettis simply named the wrong guy, and doesn’t actually think Losman is the answer for this team.
8:32 – Edwards was 9-of-11 for 104 yards and two touchdownns. Not bad. But we think Losman is the key to this team’s success.
8:35 – It looks as though they purposely left the seats in left centre and right centre field (in the baseball format) unsold. They must have thought the sightlines were too poor. Here’s a look:
8:50 – The crowd is pissed, although it looked like Spencer Johnson’s foot was indeed in the white. Johnson sort of shied away from contact. He took a bad angle.
8:51 – Halftime.
9:05 – NFL rules prohibit the sale of alcohol after halftime. We’re not sure what the CFL rule is, but some of these folks might not realize that the booze has stopped flowing.
9:10 – Rian Lindell field goal. Bills 17, Steelers 7. Blue Bombers 17, Tiger-Cats 7.
9:15 – A well-placed source within the stadium (my girlfriend sitting in the crowd somewhere) tells me that a “good-sized” beer is going for $9.25. Nothing but Bud and Bud Light.
9:30 – The crowd’s pumped up a bit as the Bills try to keep the Steelers out of the end zone.
9:33 – Five plays, five Rashard Mendenhall carries. Steelers touchdown. We are set up for a good fourth quarter as reserves scrap it out to make the roster.
9:36 – Leodis McKelvin finds a seam and goes 95 yards. The crowd isn’t roaring like it was at the start of the game, but pretty close. The Bills shout is playing again and the atmosphere is pretty good for late third quarter.
9:38 – McKelvin could be a star in the making. Donte Whitner thinks the world of the first-round pick from Troy. He may have just provided fans with the highlight of game one of this series.
9:48 – They’re doing the wave at the Rogers Centre on a big third down. Again, the atmosphere is fantastic, but that probably wasn’t the best time.
10:05 – We’re just kind of playing out the string here. The crowd has settled and begun to disperse.
10:07 – Dennis Dixon goes 47 yards with his feet for his first NFL touchdown.
10:20 – The fourth quarter might never end. Here come the Steelers, down by three.
10:22 – Headed down to the locker rooms. Thanks for reading. Check back soon for a post-game story.