ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)- C.J. Spiller was one of the most well-known players in college football during his playing days at Clemson.
Then he entered the Witness Protection Program. He got drafted by the Buffalo Bills.
is the best kept secret in the NFL, one, because the Bills make him
share carries and catches with Fred Jackson, and two, because the Bills
almost never play during prime time when the undivided attention of
Football Nation is focused on just one game.
all that changed Thursday night under the bright lights of Ralph Wilson
Stadium when the Bills hosted the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night
Spiller actually broke a sweat and held a coming out party for America
with 22 carries for 91 yards and three catches for another 39, helping
lift the Bills over the Dolphins 19-14 on a chilly fall night that had
the NFL Network crew bundled up like it was Siberia.
What a delightful sight that was.
kicker Rian Lindell converted four field goals as the Bills continued
to perfect their strength - the inability to finish drives. If football
fans outside Buffalo didn't know who Lindell was, they do now.
But they also know who C.J. Spiller is.
who suffered a concussion on Sunday in a loss at New England, was out
of the lineup, elevating Spiller to the starting job. Still, I wasn't
100 percent sure Spiller would finally get those 20-plus carries we have
all been yearning to see him get.
That's because to coach Chan Gailey, tailback isn't a player, it's a position.
it's Jackson, Spiller, third-stringer Tashard Choice or a guy he pulls
out of the Big Tree Inn down Abbott Road, he loves to spread the
workload. To him, it's at minimum a two-person job. Unfortunately during
this maddening season, Gailey's not-so-golden touch has turned Jackson
and Spiller, his Batman and Robin, into a production too often suited
for Beavis and Butt-head.
the Dolphins game, Spiller was leading the NFL with a mind-blowing 7.3
yards-per-carry average, 3.3 more yards per carry than Jackson. Spiller
had 12 more carries but only because Jackson missed two games with a
Giving Choice a shared workload with Spiller against Miami most
definitely would have been the wrong choice and to Gailey's credit, that
did not happen.
Oh, there was still too much Choice for our liking.
Choice on a wildcat play; Choice used in the red zone; Choice used on
key third downs. Like Spiller gaining 21 yards on three carries (7.0
average) to open the second half, then going into mothballs for a long
general, the Bills won in spite of Gailey's play calling, like the empty
backfield, third-and-inches pass that was incomplete. Like settling for
four first-half field goals that made this game much closer than it
needed to be.
In the end, necessity was the mother of invention.
helped that the game started out with Buffalo hitting the Staples
button and saying, "That was easy," the result of a 79-yard punt return
for a touchdown by Leodis McKelvin for a quick 7-0 lead.
it helped that Buffalo's defense played like one of the better units in
the NFL, not one of the worst, at least for a night. The defense sealed
the victory with interceptions of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill by
Jairus Byrd and Bryan Scott in the closing minutes.
when Buffalo's offense needed something positive to happen, Spiller
delivered as only he can. Running. Cutting. Spinning. Stopping on a dime
and leaving change. He had one of the best 2-yard losses you'll ever
see, making two players miss as he sped to the sideline where he
flattened a defender with a stiff arm.
NFL Network even put together a nice package of C.J. highlights.
8:20 left and the Bills clinging to a five-point lead, the offense
sputtered. Needing first downs, Spiller got three carries and produced
just three yards, losing four on one run. Byrd came to the rescue then.
And inside of two minutes, Spiller was stuffed on a third-and-two play for no gain. Scott came to the rescue that time.
when the smoke cleared from the fireworks, and the Bills showed they
still had a pulse in the AFC East with a 4-6 record, Thriller Spiller
had a night he could feel good about.
And so did his team.