Spiller, opportunistic defense lead Bills past Chiefs
Spiller had touchdown runs of 17 and 5 yards, respectively, also setting up Buffalo’s third first-half scoring play – a 10-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Scott Chandler – with a 27-yard reception, putting the Bills on the Kansas City 2-yard line. Of his game-high 123 rushing yards, 92 of them came in the first half, including 11 of his 15 carries.
“Fred Jackson challenged me today to go out there and put the team on my back,” said Spiller, who joined Jackson, Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson as the team’s only running backs to open a season with back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts. “So when that comes down from the leader, you know you have to step up your game.”
“Well, I practice against the guy and I know he’s got a burst that maybe like one or two guys in the league do,” said Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams. “If he gets a sliver, he could take it the distance at any time. So, I’m glad he’s on my team. I don’t like practicing against him much, but I love watching him on Sundays.”
On the other side of the ball, the Bills’ revamped defensive line – the subject of much scrutiny after last week’s lopsided loss to the New York Jets – applied a steady dose of pressure on Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, sacking him five times.
“I think getting off the field and continuing to get the ball back in our offense’s hands when they’re playing well and scoring points is the most important thing,” said Williams, who had two solo sacks.
Also getting in on the action was Marcell Dareus, who last week lost his brother, Simeon Gilmore, in an alleged triple-homicide. Dareus finished with two tackles, both for a loss; a sack; and a hit on the quarterback. His stats, however, paled in comparison to the support he said he's felt from his friends, family, teammates and fans.
“I felt like Buffalo fans are the greatest fans in the NFL,” Dareus said, asked about the ovation he received prior to kickoff. “They support us whenever we’re down, when we’re up – it doesn’t matter. It’s my extended family here, and they made me feel welcome today. I really, really, enjoyed it and I really needed it. I want to thank them so much.”
“This is my relief,” he continued. “Whatever is going on in the outside world, I can go to the football field and take it out, out there. Just have fun, be myself, and just focus in on the field, take everything out of my head and just have fun.”
Arguably the biggest offseason addition in team history, both monetarily and in stature, Mario Williams also put on a decent show during his home debut, registering two solo tackles and a fumble recovery.
“We gave up some cheap yards and some cheap runs at the end, so the stats look awful, but I thought we played really well [defensively],” said Bills head coach Chan Gailey. “The goal-line stand was as big as anything in the ball game. I thought that was huge.”
The goal-line stand Gailey referred to occurred with just 45 seconds remaining in the first half. Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis tried to bulldoze his way into the Bills’ end zone on second and 1, but linebacker Nick Barnett forced a fumble, which was recovered by teammate Bryan Scott. The Bills, in turn, knelt on the ball, taking a 21-0 lead into the halftime break.
“That was a tough one because you’ve got to protect the football,” said Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel. “He was trying to get the ball into the end zone, and did not protect it. The ball came out and we lost a scoring opportunity. If we could have gotten that one, that would have helped.”
Midway through the third quarter, the Chiefs got on the board with a 33-yard field goal.
The Bills answered with a 49-yard Fitzpatrick-to-Stevie Johnson touchdown. Less than two minutes later, Leodis McKelvin returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bills a 35-3 lead.
“Pretty much every time I get back there on a punt return, I tell the guys, ‘You give me a couple returns, I promise you, one will go to the house and one will go for a big run,’” said McKelvin, whose touchdown was the longest such effort since Oct. 23, 1977, when Keith Moody returned a punt 91 yards for a score.
Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe caught a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Cassel to round out the game’s scoring.
Freelance sportswriter Charles Roberts covers the NFL and University at Buffalo football program for MetroWNY.com. Reach him at CharlesHRoberts@yahoo.com or twitter.com/cHartleyRoberts.