The first half of C.J. Spiller’s season was disenchanting.
His production disappointed. Injuries were bothersome.
Even so, the respect opponents have for Spiller apparently never waned, not when he gained 155 yards from scrimmage and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers said they “did a great job” containing him Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
One week after Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone pulled him from the lineup to rest a sprained ankle, Spiller posted season-highs in rushing and receiving yardage. Spiller ran 12 times for 116 yards and caught two passes for 39 yards.
“He’s always a tough guy,” Flowers said. “You can see every week whenever he’s healthy that he can do some things with every touch.
“He’s going to get his yards, but we just try to limit his plays, and I think we did a great job of it.”
For the first time since Spiller ran for 103 yards in Week Two, he looked like the superstar who could go the distance on any play.
Spiller accounted for three of the Bills’ four longest gains. He had carries up the middle for 61 yards and 29 yards and added a catch-and-run for 27 yards on a flare pass.
“It’s still not there, but it’s definitely very close,” Spiller said of his ankle. “Today was very encouraging to me.
“My cutting ability and exploding off it was good, but tomorrow’ll be a good day to see how it responds because this is the most work that it’s got since Week Four.”
Spiller’s 14 touches were the most since he carried 23 times for 77 yards in a victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week Four.
Spiller has been on the injury report since the week of the Ravens game. First it was a strained quadriceps, then the high ankle sprain.
“He was banged up, and I think he came back explosive today,” Bills center Eric Wood said. “It’s not really fair to put a player like that, whose game is explosion, out there injured. I thought a week off did a lot for him.”
The Bills amassed 470 yards against one of the NFL’s best defenses. They rushed for 241 yards, averaging 6.3 yards a carry. Fred Jackson ran 16 times for 77 yards.
Spiller dismissed any notions about being relieved to get back to his game-breaking ways.
“To me, I don’t get caught up in the stats,” Spiller said. “It’s a great day for us to run the ball the way that we did today against a good team. They’re 9-0 for a reason.
“But at the end of the day, we lost. That’s the only thing that matters.”
Jeff Tuel became the 46th undrafted quarterback to start as a rookie since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
If that number seems high, then consider 17 of those were strike replacements in 1987. A slew of quarterbacks who came through other pro leagues (Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia, Bobby Hebert, et al) also count.
So for the proper context to underscore Tuel’s lack of pedigree and experience, know that he became only the 13th undrafted rookie under 25 years old and not from the strike season to start since the merger.
Tuel’s start moved the betting lines two full points in Las Vegas.
Kansas City opened as a three-point favorite and remained there all week amid reports Thad Lewis would overcome his sore ribs and play against Kansas City. Those reports proved false, and bettors pounced.
Las Vegas handicapper and former oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski, a St. Joe’s and Buffalo State grad, reported the line nudged to 3.5 points overnight and then jumped to 5.5 points Sunday morning with big money wagered on Kansas City.
Stephon Gilmore faced a tough challenge Sunday. He switched sides to cover Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe.
The Chiefs weren’t deterred by the Bills’ best cornerback, targeting Bowe a game-high 12 times. Bowe had seven catches for 67 yards, also game-highs.
“I think he’s doing the best he can,” Marrone said of Gilmore. “He’s going out there against a guy … you’ve got to remember that’s Dwayne Bowe out there, and he’s covering him man-to-man in a lot of situations.”
Marrone last week accepted full blame for his lack of success challenging on-field calls. He went into Sunday unsuccessful on all three attempts. He dropped the red flag again with 6:43 left in the game.
Marrone challenged a ruling that Marquise Goodwin didn’t catch a long throw that would’ve gone for 42 yards. Goodwin laid out for the ball and got a hand around it, but the ball moved when it hit the ground.
Replays didn’t overturn the call, keeping Marrone winless.
“I thought it was a catch all the way,” Marrone said.
“I struggle sometimes. I’d love for someone to tell me what the definition of a catch is. He bounced once, and he had it. Second time he bounced, he didn’t. I was told that the first time he bounced that he lost the ball.”
Former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira, now a Fox Sports analyst, tweeted during the game: “The BUF receiver has to hold on to the ball as he goes to the ground. That’s the process. He did not.”
The Bills signed defensive tackle Stefan Charles off the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad Wednesday, and they weren’t afraid to play him. One of his two tackles stopped Chiefs star running back Jamaal Charles for no gain.