September 16, 2012
Spiller rumbles for 123 yards in Bills win
By JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - When an NFL running back achieves something not done since Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns in 1963, you know it's got to be for something spectacular.
And it is.
Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller is the first NFLer since Brown to average 10 yards per carry after two games, minimum 25 carries.
After another dazzling performance Sunday in the Bills' home opener — a 35-17 pasting of the Kansas City Chiefs — Spiller has amassed 292 yards on 29 carries, for a 10.1-yard average.
He rushed for 169 yards on 14 carries in the Bills' loss last week to the New York Jets and he had 123 on 15 carries against the Chiefs, before 69,402 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Spiller was by far the most dominant skill-position player on the field, as the Bills (1-1) dominated the Chiefs (0-2) in every phase on a windy, late-summer day. Buffalo led 35-3 deep into the second half until they allowed two meaningless TDs.
"First and foremost, the honour goes to God," Spiller told Sun Media. "And after that to the offensive line, wide receivers and tight ends. Those guys are blocking phenomenally.
"They're hitting these guys up, and opening some big running lanes. And I'm just taking what they give me."
Not bad for a backup.
Indeed, Spiller wouldn't be getting nearly this many touches if Fred Jackson, the nominal starting running back, hadn't gone down with a sprained ligament in his right knee early in last week's opener. Jackson is not expected to return for another 3-7 weeks.
Spiller has exploded in his place. Even more than last year, when Jackson missed the final six games with a broken bone in his right leg.
One doesn't average 10 yards per carry without racking up a slew of big gains.
He scored Buffalo's first TD against the Chiefs on a 17-yard run. He set up a second with a 38-yard burst. And he teed up a third -- also before halftime -- on a bubble-screen pass he took 27 yards inside the 5.
Spiller, 25, racked up 139 all-purpose yards by the break, on only 14 touches. The Chiefs were powerless.
Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams wasn't surprised.
"Well, I practise against the guy, and I know he's got a burst maybe like one or two guys in the league do. If he gets a sliver, he could take it the distance at any time," he said.
A 5-foot-11, 200-pounder, Spiller was drafted out of Clemson three years ago in the first round. He was raw, and didn't play much his first two years.
What's happened since?
Bills centre Eric Wood hit on it.
"Early in his career when he was touching the ball six or seven times a game, he was putting a lot of pressure on himself to make a home run. When you're doing that, you're trying to really press."
And it wasn't working. Spiller would get frustrated, press harder, play worse, and it would spiral.
"I understand now that a two- and three-yard gain early in the game is good enough, and eventually we'll pop one," Spiller said.
In head coach Chan Gailey's offence, Spiller lines up occasionally as a slot wide receiver, even as a wideout.
Did Gailey know he could be this dynamic?
"I would like to tell you, 'Oh sure, I saw that,' but it would be a lie," Gailey said. "I did not see it happening like this."
The phone calls from national media were already coming in after Sunday's game. Spiller is going to be a big deal this week.
Is he ready for it?
"I think I'll handle it well," he said. "I understand where the blessings come from. I understand that people can praise you one day, and criticize you the next."
There's no reason it can't continue. Wood said the offensive linemen know they just have to get Spiller through, or around, the defensive front seven.
"C.J. in the open space is pretty deadly, because he's physical now and he's got the speed to go with it ... That's what he's doing right now. We're getting him to the safeties. That's on him as a running back to make them miss, and he's doing a heck of a job at it," Wood said.
Like the old saying goes, they can't hit you if they can't catch you.
Ask the Chiefs about that. Or Jim Brown.