With six games to handle the mantle of feature running back C.J. Spiller has already shown some flashes of the kinds of plays he can deliver with the ball in his hands. On Sunday he flashed early and late and put together the most productive day in his young career. The only problem was he did it in a loss that extended Buffalo's lengthy losing streak.
"It was a good day, tough losing the game," said Spiller. "Obviously we really wanted this one. I think we played hard. The first half we really couldn't get anything established on offense; weren't executing, penalties. We just have to go back and, that's something we can fix. See what we did bad, correct it, and see what we did good and learn of it."
Spiller could learn a lot by what he did after the Bills defense forced a fumble midway through the first quarter. In a scoreless game Buffalo's offense stuck to the ground early. After rolling up 15 yards on his first three carries on the Bills first two possessions, Spiller ripped off an 18-yard run on a 2nd-and-10 down to the Miami 24-yard line. That was followed by a run up the middle that he busted to the near sideline after breaking a tackle, gaining the corner and reaching the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown run.
"I started to make my move early, saw the receiver coming in and he had a good block on that cornerback out there, I think it was Brad Smith, I saw the safety try to fit inside. He obviously didn't do a good job of wrapping up and I used my strength that people say that I have little of, and showed that I can break tackles."
At the half Spiller had rolled up 64 yards on just eight carries and had three receptions for 15 yards. Head coach Chan Gailey said the plan all along was to make heavy use of Spiller in the passing game.
"We had a plan of certain packages that we were using C.J . and we were using Tashard (Choice) in," said Gailey. "We knew we were going to use C.J. a lot in the passing game."
Come the second half Buffalo's offense sputtered with Spiller only seeing four more carries the rest of the game finishing with a career-high 91 rushing yards. He also had a career-best nine receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, the second most by a Bills player this season.
Down 23-7 Spiller was responsible for 41 yards on Buffalo's 80-yard scoring drive and the back capped the possession pulling in a three-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Fitzpatrick on a quick slant to make it a 10-point game. Spiller became the first Bills player since Fred Jackson in the 2010 season to post a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game.
Spiller's 167 total yards from scrimmage was also a personal best eclipsing his previous best of 102 yards against Tennessee. All the lofty statistics however, didn't register with Spiller coming off a loss.
"I'd trade those stats in for a win," he said. "I was just trying to make plays. I knew what I had to do coming into the game, I knew what I wanted to try and correct from last game. Obviously I wasn't making enough people miss last game and that's something I wanted to correct and I knew those guys have a great rush defense so I really took that to heart to go out and show that we can run the ball against anybody."
However, Buffalo ran it just seven times in the second half of Sunday's loss to Miami. Gailey indicated that not using Spiller as much in the run game come the final two quarters of the game was to keep him fresh.
"We're trying not to wear the guy completely out," said Gailey. "He's not the biggest back in the world. I don't think he can go out there and carry it 25 or 30 times. I don't want to put him in that position to carry it 25 to 30 times. I think we've got to split the carries and let Tashard have some of those packages to take some of the hits off of C.J."
Spiller didn't have a problem with the approach knowing all told he had 20 total touches in the game.
"We were down two scores; we're trying to get some momentum, trying to get it going," Spiller said. "I don't go into the second half saying 'I want this many carries.' Whatever we need to do to get us back into the game, that's what we've got to go with. I thought we were running the ball very successful but when you get down two scores and you're trying to get back into the game and get your crowd back into it, you've got to try and throw it around a little bit."
In the four games in which Spiller has been the main ball carrier he's undoubtedly progressed, but the second-year back is more focused on finishing the season out with a victory or two instead of assessing where his game is right now.
"It's too early, after we play the Patriots I'll see what I did, but I'm just trying to learn on the go," he said. "When you think you've done well, that's when you get complacent. I'm just learning as we go and I'm getting more and more comfortable with the offensive line. After the season I think I'll have a better idea over these six games how I think I did."