BUFFALO, N.Y. — Snowed out in Buffalo, the Bills are heading to Detroit to play their “home” game against the New York Jets on the night of Nov. 24.
The NFL announced the location and date of the game on Nov. 20 night after a severe lake-effect storm paralyzed much of the Buffalo region. More than 5 feet of snow has fallen in the Buffalo area since Nov. 17, and another 1 to 3 feet was projected to fall by Nov. 21.
The storm forced the Bills to cancel their past two days of practice because of impassable roads and driving bans in Orchard Park and many communities neighboring Ralph Wilson Stadium. The team intends to travel to Detroit on Nov. 21 and practice at the Lions’ facility.
The Lions are at New England on Nov. 23. “We greatly appreciate the hospitality of the Detroit Lions in hosting the Bills and this game,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said.
This marks the second time the Bills will play at Ford Field this season following a 17-14 win over the Lions on Oct. 5. It also is the second time in four years the facility has hosted a neutral site game.
The last time an NFL game was moved to Ford Field unexpectedly, the fans who did show up witnessed a bit of history. Brett Favre’s streak of 297 regular-season starts came to an end that night — on Dec. 13, 2010 — when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New York Giants 21-3. Favre was sidelined by shoulder and hand issues.
That game was moved to Detroit because the Metrodome roof collapsed.
“We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night,” Lions President Tom Lewand said. “While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend.”
The decision should help the Bills get back on track after their routine was disrupted by the storm. It also gives them an extra day to prepare, with the game pushed back from Nov. 23.
“A big part of preparation is practice and lifting and nutrition, and that’s been compromised,” Bills President Russ Brandon said before the location of the game was announced. “And it’s certainly something we’re looking into and trying to do the best as we try to prepare to play the Jets whenever that may be.”
Bills coach Doug Marrone and his staff have been living at the Bills headquarters since Nov. 18. They’ve been going over the game plan and consulting with the team by phone and computer because a majority of the players have been snowed in. And those who can get out are unable to travel to the facility.
The next step is devising a way to get all the players and staff to the airport, which has remained open because it is north of where much of the storm hit.
The Bills (5-5) are already coming off an extended break. They had last weekend off following a 22-9 loss at Miami on Nov. 13. The Jets (2-8) are coming out of their bye week, and haven’t played since a 20-13 win against Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team wouldn’t be hampered by a change of venue. “It wouldn’t affect us,” Ryan said. “We’d just aim our plane in a different direction, I guess.”
Earlier on Nov. 20, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it would be difficult for the game to be played in Buffalo because snow removal and emergency resources were already stretched thin.
“If you ask me today, right now, my sense is it’s impractical to do the game because it would jeopardize public safety,” Cuomo said. “Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first.”
Given how much snow needs to be cleared, Brandon said there’s no telling if Ralph Wilson Stadium will be ready in time for the Bills’ next home game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 30.
Without providing any assurances, Brandon said it will take “an all hands on deck exercise” to have the stadium ready to host the Browns. He added that the Bills are already contemplating the possibility of spending much of next week practicing out of town while the cleanup in Buffalo continues.
The Bills estimated on Nov. 19 that 220,000 tons of snow covered the team’s 200-acre grounds — enough to fill their practice fieldhouse eight times over.
The temperatures are expected to warm into the 40s by Nov. 22, with a high of 47 projected for Nov. 23. But a sudden thaw presents another problem by raising flooding concerns.
Starting guard Kraig Urbik is among the Bills players who are snowed in. “Any chance my street gets plowed today,” Urbik posted on his Twitter account Thursday. “Or are we stuck here till Saturday?”
By John Wawrow, AP Sports Writer. AP writer Chris Carola, in Albany, New York, and AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., in Florham Park, New Jersey, and Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report