Patience is at the forefront of C.J. Spiller’s mind entering Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.
He can only hope coach Chan Gailey has a similar mentality about the Bills’ running game.
Spiller knows the full load of the Bills’ running game is on his shoulders now that backfield mate Fred Jackson is out with a knee injury. Spiller says he can’t let his eagerness to run on Seattle get the better of him when he steps on the Rogers Centre field in Toronto.
“You just have to take what they give you,” Spiller said. “You can’t go in there thinking you’re just going to break ’em every time. Those guys are fast, they’re physical and they fly around. It’s going to be a crowded box. That’s what I expect.”
“I just gotta take what they’re gonna give me, and if a big one breaks I have to hopefully take advantage of it,” he added. “I can’t go into the game pressing. That’s going to be the biggest thing. I can’t go in there pressing for it.”
It stands to reason Spiller will be less likely to press if he sees the ball often.
However, Spiller has had 20 or more carries only once this season. He had 22 runs in the win over the Miami Dolphins four weeks ago. Jackson was out that day. In the other two games Jackson missed this year, Spiller saw 15 carries (against Kansas City) and four carries (at Cleveland).
Last year Spiller took over as the lead back for the last six games of the season, after Jackson went down with a broken leg, but never got 20 carries in any of those games. Spiller’s attempts were 19, 14, 12, 12, 16 and 13. (The Bills fell way behind early in two of the games.)
The Bills are facing a Seattle defense Sunday that ranks 10th in the NFL against the run and fourth against the pass.
Said Gailey on Spiller’s role: “We are going to get the opportunity here in the next few weeks for him to get it a lot. And Now C.J. will get it as much as he wants.”
Spiller’s yards-per-carry average — a league-best 6.55 — can put him into some elite company.
With 944 rushing yards on the season, Spiller is in position to become just the eighth back in NFL history to hit 1,000 yards and average 6 yards a carry or better. The last to do it was Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles in 2010. Charles had 1,467 yards and a 6.4-yard average. The only others to do it since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 were Michael Vick (2006), Barry Sanders (1997) and O.J. Simpson (1973).
“He’s done a helluva job this year of getting the hard yards when he needs to,” Bills guard Kraig Urbik said. “To get him over 1,000 would be huge, especially for the first time in his career. He’s so explosive you get him out in the open field and it’s over.”
Even if he averages 18 carries a game over the last three games, Spiller will become just the third 1,000-yard rusher in the last 20 years to finish the season with fewer than 200 carries.
Spiller has 11 runs of 20 yards or longer, second in the league behind only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, who has 18.
Nevertheless, Spiller refuses to join the “just-give-him-the-ball” chorus.
Asked if he has anything to prove the last three games, Spiller said: “The only thing you have to prove is just win. From a playing perspective, I’m always looking to get better and improve my craft. But I’m not in this business to try to please Joe Blow down the street because he wants me to carry the ball 30 times. That’s not what we’re all about. We’re all about this team and trying to get everybody involved so teams don’t just try to pinpoint what we do in certain situations.”
Spiller even lamented the fact he’s going to get more carries due to Jackson’s misfortune.
“I was thinking about it when I was coming into work today,” Spiller said. “It’s unfortunate the way that Fred went down that fans are gonna now get, probably, get what they’ve been wanting, which is me to get the ball. For me that’s a disadvantage because I don’t want nothing ever to be handed to me. I always want to work for everything I get in life. Unfortunately we have to deal with certain experiences and this is one of those.”