C.J. Spiller was told he was too small, that he couldn't handle a heavy workload.
On this night, he stifled his critics.
Starting in place of the injured Fred Jackson, Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller totaled 130 yards as the Bills defeated the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night, 19-14.
Special teams were a major factor in this game, as both teams returned kicks for touchdowns in the first quarter. After Miami's opening possession resulted in a three & out, Leodis McKelvin returned a punt 79 yards the other way for a touchdown. Later in the quarter after a Buffalo field goal, Dolphins return man Marcus Thigpen struck back with a 96 yard kickoff return to the house.
Three Buffalo field goals later, the Bills were up 19-7. Midway through the fourth quarter, Ryan Tannehill hooked up with Davone Bess to bring Miami within five. The Dolphins would force Buffalo to punt two more times before Tannehill responded with back to back interceptions on those drives to eventually end the game.
Here are the Five Things We Learned Thursday night in Buffalo:
1.) C.J. Spiller Should be the Bills' Starting Running Back
Spiller's numbers do all of the talking here. With 115 touches, Spiller has totaled 929 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per touch, whereas starting running back Fred Jackson has amassed 481 yards on 101 touches, averaging 4.8 yards per touch. Jackson has averaged a respectable four yards per carry this season, while his counterpart Spiller has averaged an astounding 7.3 yards on the ground. More importantly, Jackson's health has become a glaring issue for Buffalo as he's already missed three games this season. At 31 years old, age is finally starting to catch-up to Jackson. On the other hand, 25 year old Spiller is the running back of future for the Bills capable of producing many Pro Bowl seasons to come.
2.) Special Teams Matter
While the debate rages on as to whether offense or defense is more instrumental to success in the NFL, special teams should throw its' hat into the ring for consideration as well. 26 out of the 33 points scored tonight were produced by the Dolphins & Bills' special teams units. Up five late in the fourth quarter, Buffalo's rookie punter Shawn Powell joined in on the fun as he pinned the Dolphins inside their own one yard line with a perfectly placed 52 yard punt. Miami later threw an interception on that drive.
3.) Mario Williams Makes the Bills' Defense Better
Miami rushed for a 60 yards on 24 carries, averaging a disappointing 2.5 yards per carry. Buffalo entered Week 11 with the 32nd ranked rush defense, allowing 163.7 per game on the ground. That can be partly attributed to the absence of star defensive end Mario Williams. Williams was essential to the Bills' domination in the trenches, negating Reggie Bush & the Dolphins rushing attack. Super Mario pressured Ryan Tannehill for a good part of the night, recording a sack & two tackles for negative yards in the process.
4.) Miami Has a Problem Closing Games
Miami has had a hard time finishing games this year. The Dolphins have been outscored 60-38 in the fourth quarter this season. Kicker Dan Carpenter has missed a few field goals in the fourth quarter & overtime, including a late fourth quarter attempt tonight that could've closed Miami's deficit to two. This could have reshaped the Dolphins final drive as they would've only needed another field goal to win the game instead driving almost the length of the field for a touchdown. Ryan Tannehill has thrown two touchdowns & four interceptions in the fourth quarter & overtime. Miami could just as easily be 6-4 right now but instead they sit at 4-6.
5.) Buffalo Has a Better Chance at a Playoff Berth Than You Think
The Bills' remaining opponents own a combined 23-32-1 record. With Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likely out for the rest of the regular season & every AFC team on the outside looking in with minus .500 records, an 8-8 or 9-7 record could be good enough for a Wild Card berth in the AFC. If Buffalo can stay healthy & play smart, don't be surprised to see the Bills join their AFC East foe New England in the postseason.