TORONTO — C.J. Spiller’s 2013 season can be summed up by his Sunday afternoon in the Rogers Centre.
The Buffalo Bills’ running back was at times ineffective, at times electrifying, and at times hurt during his team’s 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Spiller carried 15 times for a season-high 149 yards and a touchdown, but once again had to check himself out of the lineup periodically to get his left ankle looked at.
“It’s kind of been that type of season for C.J.,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I think you can see he can make some big plays out there. I was happy to see him do that.”
Spiller was held to 3 yards or less on nine of his 15 carries, but he made amends with a pair of explosive runs that were reminders of his game-breaking ability. On the Bills’ second play from scrimmage, he busted a career-long 77-yard run down to the Atlanta 6-yard line before being caught by Falcons rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant (who ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine).
“That’s probably the first time ever being caught like that,” Spiller said. “All those guys did a great job up front. I just saw daylight and unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish it.”
Spiller said his ankle was “fine” after the game, but he was noticeably limping at times.
“He goes in there and makes the big run and gets nicked up,” Marrone said. “Starts limping a little bit, and gets himself back in there.”
Marrone said he consulted with running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley about Spiller’s health before he returned to the game. When he did, he ripped off a 36-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave the Bills a 31-24 lead.
“Almost the identical same play,” he said of his long first-quarter run. “I seen a receiver blocking to my right – I think it was Robert Woods – and I saw the safety coming down and I just cut behind those guys and made him miss. I wasn’t going to get caught on that one.”
Spiller’s score looked like it was going to be enough to boost the Bills to a much-needed victory, but fumbles by Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler at the end of regulation and in overtime, respectively, handed the game to Atlanta.
“Any time you lose it’s always frustrating,” Spiller said. “We had opportunities to win it and we just didn’t.”
Spiller did not touch the ball on Buffalo’s last two offensive possessions. He was on the sideline for both fumbles.
“I saw it coming,” he said. “You’re on the sideline and there’s nothing you can do. Both times, both guys did a great job of hitting the ball. You have to give them credit – pretty sure they practiced that. We just have to do a better job on the offensive side of taking care of it. Unfortunately the game ended the way it did on the offensive side of the ball. As an offense, we want to be the ones to lead our team to victory, and today we weren’t able to do that.”
Spiller’s rushing total was a season high. As a team, the Bills gained 195 yards on 31 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per rush.
“I felt great going into the game,” he said. “As a team, we had a great week of preparation leading up to this one. Physically, I felt good. … Later in the game, it just got caught up, but it calmed down and wasn’t anything where I was reinjured.”