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Pitoniak: Spiller carries Bills to victory

ORCHARD PARK - The strategy was pretty obvious from the get-go. The Bills offense Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at the sun-splashed, sold-out Ralph was going to consist of C.J. Spiller, C.J. Spiller and still more C.J. Spiller.

                It proved to be a great game plan and one we should get used to seeing as this season evolves.

                The former first-round pick from Clemson University is - in Bills defensive back George Wilson's words - "a superstar in the making." Hard to argue with that assessment after watching Spiller rush for  123 yards and two touchdowns and catch three passes for another 47 yards in a 35-17 rebound victory against the Chiefs.

                Through two games, the running back who's filling in for the injured Fred Jackson has rushed for 292 yards on 29 carries, a 10.1 average. To put that into historical perspective, that's the best rushing average at the start of an NFL season since Jim Brown averaged 11.3 yards per carry through two games back in 1963.

                Now, I'm not saying C.J. is the next Jim Brown, but we may be witnessing something special unfolding here.

                I was one of those who scratched his head when the Bills used the No. 9 pick overall in the 2010 NFL draft to pick Spiller. My gripe wasn't with Spiller, but rather with the selection of a running back on a roster that already boasted Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. With so many other holes to fill, why add to an area that was a strength? At the time it seemed like a luxury pick they didn't have the luxury to make.

                With Jackson out for at least a month, Spiller will have another opportunity to shine, just like he did last season, when he filled in admirably for Freddie during the last five games.

                This season, Spiller is taking it to another level. The pro game has finally clicked in. He's getting it. And the Bills would be wise to keep feeding the hot hand - or in this case, the hot feet.

                Give pass-happy Chan Gailey credit for making Spiller - and not quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick - the focal point of the Bills offense Sunday. He realized Fitz's confidence had suffered a blow in the three-pick performance against the Jets. Spiller was up to the task of carrying the load, and that alleviated pressure on Fitz, who wound up having a nice bounce-back game, completing 10-of-19 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Most significantly, Fitz didn't throw an interception.   

                It also was nice to see the defense come to the Bills defense after that Meadowlands Meltdown. Five sacks, two forced fumbles and seven Chiefs drives that ended in punts. Not a bad day at the office. Led by Kyle Williams' two sacks, Buffalo pressured Matt Cassel time and time again and bottled up the Kansas City run game. The corners redeemed themselves and actually pressed the issue, instead of giving the Chiefs receivers the huge cushions they gave the Jets pass-catchers.

                All in all, it was a dominating performance, and, remarkably, the Bills now find themselves in a four-way tie for first in the AFC East.

                They can thank C.J. Spiller for carrying them to their first win.

                It's a strategy they'd be wise to continue.

                SCOTT'S REPORT CARD

                OFFENSE: The Bills rushed for 201 yards, Fitz had a quarterback rating of 120, Stevie Johnson had a 49-yard reception and run for touchdown, rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn continued to pancake people and they didn't commit any turnovers. Grade: A 

               DEFENSE: Don't be fooled by Matt Cassel's 301 yards passing or the Chiefs 150 yards rushing. Most of the yardage and both of Kansas City's touchdowns came long after this one was decided. Grade: B-plus

               SPECIAL TEAMS: Leodis McKelvin's 88-yard punt return for touchdown late in the third quarter was the cherry on top of the sundae.  Brian Moorman had a solid day, averaging 49.9 yards per punt, with one inside the 20. Grade: B-plus

                COACHING: Chan did a good job of getting his team re-focused after the debacle in the Meadowlands. He also called a solid game offensively, particularly early on, when C.J. had 10 touches in the first 21 plays. Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt redeemed himself a bit after a poorly called game vs. the Jets, in which he didn't make necessary adjustments. Bruce DeHaven's special teams were solid.  Grade: B-plus

               OVERALL: The Bills need to follow this up with a strong performance in a winnable game next week vs. the Browns in Cleveland. After that, they host New England, which will be loaded for bear after last year's disappointing overtime loss to the Bills at the Ralph. Grade: B-plus.
                Nationally honored columnist and best-selling author Scott Pitoniak has followed the Bills since the late 1960s, covered them since the mid-1980s and written five books about their storied history. 
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