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Spiller stepping forward

Posted Sep 21, 2011


He only touched the ball six times in Buffalo’s Week 2 win over Oakland, but C.J. Spiller had a noticeable impact on the game and the Bills comeback effort. It’s the kind of progress the club was hoping to see from the former first-round pick in year two.

“He’s coming along,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “The more he touches it, the better he’ll be. He’s getting better I believe each week.”

Spiller got better as last Sunday’s game went on too. After pulling in a reception for a six-yard gain in the first half, Spiller got a few more chances to make a play in the second half.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, Spiller got seven yards on a run off right guard on a 1st-and-10 at midfield. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it put Buffalo in a favorable 2nd-and-3 situation where just about everything in the playbook is fair game. The next play was Fred Jackson’s 43-yard touchdown run.

“The main thing me and Fred were trying to do was get the energy back and get the crowd back into it so we’d have an opportunity to win the game,” said Spiller.

On the Bills’ next possession Spiller opened the series with a 12-yard run off left tackle and had to be pushed out of bounds by Raiders safety Tyvon Branch as he moved the offense into Oakland territory.  

Three plays later Spiller to another hand off off the right end where he let his blocks develop in front of him. He gained 18 more yards on that carry to set up a first-and-goal situation at the Raiders’ seven-yard line.

Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson with a seven-yard touchdown pass three plays later to pull Buffalo to within four. Spiller accounted for 30 of the 57 yards on that scoring drive.

“He did a great job for us on Sunday,” said Fitzpatrick. “We need to get him more touches with what he did in that game. And it’s hard because we fell behind and really ended up relying on the pass game a lot. Fred got over the 100 yard mark with 15 carries. We ran the ball really effectively and that really helped us.” 

Spiller’s biggest individual play of the game came after Oakland had re-taken the lead (28-24) midway through the fourth quarter. On a 1st-and-10 at the Buffalo 35, Spiller got the corner off the right side and was off to the races going 26 yards down the right sideline before being forced out of bounds. Once again he moved the Bills into Oakland territory.

“We have a read on that and the offensive line and Fred did a great job of picking up their men and one of the defensive linemen tried to grab me and I tried to break that tackle and I saw the outside open and tried to hit it,” said Spiller. “I thought I was gone, but the cornerback did a good job getting me out of bounds. Still, it was a nice momentum swing for us.”

With his last three plays going for 12, 18 and 26 yards, Oakland’s defense certainly had Spiller on the brain as a threat. So much so that Spiller, though he never touched the ball, had a big impact on the game-winning touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to David Nelson.

In a three-wide set on 4th-and-1 at the Oakland six-yard line down four with 18 seconds remaining, C.J. Spiller was lined up to the left in the backfield. As the ball was snapped both cornerback Chris Johnson and middle linebacker Rolando McClain headed toward Spiller to close down the space for the Bills back. Even pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley drifted in Spiller’s direction on the play. The result was a wide open David Nelson over the middle for the game-winning points.

“The thing that goes unnoticed sometimes is we had him in there on a couple of plays where two people ran out there with him,” said Gailey. “All of a sudden something else is open. So he’s having an impact beyond just touching the ball. People know he’s in there, they know where he is and what he’s capable of.”  

“I guess they were concerned that we were going to get the yardage on the swing pass (to me),” said Spiller. “Once I saw the linebacker and defensive back still out there with me I knew the middle of the field was going to be open. That’s what I need to do, open it up for other guys. That was a huge play and it won the game for us so I was glad I could be a good decoy on that play. We did a good job of disguising it out there and trying to get them guessing which way I was going to go.”

By game’s end, though his opportunities were few his numbers were encouraging with four carries for 63 yards giving him an average of 15.8 per carry. Those kind of figures will provide incentive for Buffalo’s offensive staff to draw up more plays designed to get him the ball.

“His touches are going to come,” said Fitzpatrick. “Everybody knows how explosive he is. It’s good to see the progress he’s made.”