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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – A day later, Bills coach Doug Marrone was still coming to grips with how Buffalo fumbled away a chance at victory.
First, receiver Stevie Johnson lost the ball. Then, it was tight end Scott Chandler's turn in overtime.
The lost fumbles on the Bills' final two possessions helped the Atlanta Falcons escape with a 34-31 win in Buffalo's annual "home" game at Toronto.
"We've got to learn how to win close games. We've got to learn how to win games on the road. We've got to finish teams," Marrone said Monday. "It was tough this morning. It's tough to swallow."
Equally difficult to digest was how Buffalo (4-8) squandered a realistic shot of staying in the hunt for the AFC's sixth and final playoff berth. Rather than winning consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 2-3 of last season, the Bills have lost four of five and are likely to extend the NFL's longest active postseason drought to 14 seasons.
Three of Buffalo's last four games are on the road, beginning with a trip to Tampa Bay (3-9) on Sunday.
"It kills me that I wasn't part of the solution yesterday," Chandler said. "I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. It hurts to let the fans, your coaches and your teammates down."
Chandler's fumble came on the second play from scrimmage in overtime, when safety William Moore caught the tight end from behind and punched the ball loose. The turnover led directly to Matt Bryant's 36-yard field goal.
Johnson's fumble was just as costly, denying the Bills a shot at winning the game in regulation.
This time it was cornerback Robert McClain who punched the ball loose after Johnson had picked up a first down at the Atlanta 30 with 20 seconds left.
"It's up there on the list as the most bizarre," Johnson said, referring to how the Bills have come up with various ways of losing games this season.
Five of Buffalo's eight losses have been by seven points or less, including a 27-24 overtime loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 13.
The Bills also lost 23-13 to Kansas City on Nov. 3, when the Chiefs scored on interception and fumble returns. The Bills had otherwise controlled the game, building a 470-210 edge in yards on offense and a 25-15 edge in first downs.
There also was the heartbreaking 27-20 loss at the Jets on Sept. 22, when New York was penalized 20 times for 168 yards.
It's the continuation of troubling trend for the Bills.
In 2010, Johnson was alone in the end zone when he dropped a pass in overtime of a 19-16 loss to Pittsburgh.
And then there was Buffalo's 2009 season-opening 25-24 loss at New England, when the Bills squandered an 11-point lead in the final 2:06. The Patriots' final score was set up after Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff return with 45 seconds left.
"This was tough. It's definitely top three if not the most frustrating one I've ever been a part of," running back Fred Jackson said. "We've got to get over this one. Easier said than done."
Consistency has been an issue for a young team that's led by a new coaching staff coming off an offseason overhaul.
While the Bills offense struggled with turnovers against Atlanta, the defense also had difficulty stopping the Falcons.
Buffalo allowed 151 yards rushing against a team that was averaging 74.7 per game. Atlanta's three touchdowns rushing were one fewer than Buffalo had allowed all season. And the Falcons converted 10 of 18 third-down chances, including seven of their last 11.
"It's a work in progress, and I don't want to be that guy that stands up here and says that," Marrone said. "Being competitive and playing close is not what we do. What we're here to do is win. And at the end of the day, we haven't gotten that done consistently."
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