By Brandon Koch
ORCHARD PARK —
For the second time in three weeks, a career day from C.J. Spiller went for naught.
Spiller posted a career-best in rushing and receiving Sunday, running for 91 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and catching a team-high nine passes for 78 yards and another score in the Bills’ 30-23 loss to the Dolphins.
“I’ll trade those stats in for a win,” said Spiller, whose 91 yards is the second-best individual effort against Miami’s third-ranked run defense this season (Houston’s Ben Tate had 103 yards).
“I’m just trying to make plays,” he said. “I knew what I had to do coming into the game. I knew what I wanted to try and correct from last game. Obviously I wasn’t making enough people miss last game, so that’s something I wanted to correct.”
The second-year had impressive runs on consecutive plays in the first quarter, an 18-yard draw up the gut, and a 24-yard run in which he broke away from a would-be tackler en route to Buffalo’s first score of the game.
“I used my strength that people say I have little of, so it shows that I can break tackles,” he said.
Spiller carried the ball just eight times in the first half despite averaging eight yards per rush, while Tashard Choice replaced him for extended stretches. Spiller only had two carries in the third quarter before getting more touches in the fourth in the passing game as the Bills attempted to rally back.
“We’re trying not to wear the guy completely out,” coach Chan Gailey said. “He’s not the biggest back in the world. I don’t think he can go out there and carry it 25 or 30 times.”
Gailey said despite the loss he hasn’t wavered in his support for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“I’ve lost zero confidence,” Gailey said.
Fitzpatrick finished with 316 yards and two touchdowns but threw three more interceptions. He has eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions during the Bills’ seven-game losing streak.
“There’s nobody pointing fingers at anybody,” receiver Stevie Johnson said. “We need a big mirror around this locker room so we can look at ourselves and see if we can do something different.”
For the second straight week rookie cornerback Justin Rogers showed he can make plays in the return game.
After Miami got on the board in the second quarter, Rogers brought Dan Carpenter’s kickoff out from a yard deep in the end zone for a 42-yard return — the Bills’ longest kickoff return up to that point all season. In the third quarter he brought another out from three yards deep and returned the kick 54 yards.
“I’ve been practicing all year and the coaches gave me a chance to show what I got the past couple weeks and I just get in, stick to the scheme and I’ve got great blocking,” said Rogers, who has also moved ahead of Leodis McKelvin on the cornerback depth chart.
“We have a rule, if it’s like five-yards deep, don’t bring it out. And I’m sticking to the same rule,” said Rogers of the struggles in the return game for the majority of the year. “It’s just a rule that we have. It’s not me personally that they’re letting bring it out, it’s just winter time so guys aren’t kicking it that far, so we have more opportunities to bring it out.”
Stevie Johnson said his groin injury flared up late in the game, preventing him from being on the field for the team’s final possession, while defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was also spotted after the game heading in for X-rays.
Tight end Lee Smith left the game with an apparent left ankle injury midway through the third quarter. Smith was carted off the field and did not return.
Reggie Bush recorded only the fourth-ever 200-yard rushing game by a Miami running back. Bush rushed for 203 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown run that proved to be the game-winner. His previous career-best came in his rookie season when he had 126 yards against the New York Giants. The former second-overall pick is just 27 yards shy of his first-ever 1,000-yard rushing campaign.
What’s become a trend during Buffalo’s losing skid has been its inability to convert on third down. The Bills offense went 0 for 11 on Sunday and was 0 for 23 on third down against the Dolphins in two games this season.
Erik Pears, in his first game after signing a new three-year contract extension with the Bills, struggled on Buffalo’s opening drive. On first down, Pears was called for a 10-yard holding call, and on the next play he was beaten clean by Cameron Wake for a sack on Fitzpatrick. Pears was later flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty.
The Bills committed 11 penalties for 92 yards in the loss.
“Coach addressed it after the game. It’s a sign of an undisciplined team,” defensive end Chris Kelsay said. “That’s one thing I would never say about a team coach Gailey coaches is that they’re undisciplined, because he demands discipline. And today, we shot ourselves in the foot with in crucial times with penalties and it hurt.”
North Tonawanda’s Rick Tomm and Kenmore West’s Rich Harris were both honored before the game along with several other high school football coaches in the area as part of the Buffalo Bills High School Football Coach of the Week program. Orchard Park’s Gene Tundo was named Coach of the Year.
Former UB and St. Joe’s standout Naaman Roosevelt was inactive against the Dolphins, as Derek Hagan got the nod as the No. 4 wideout. Also out for the Bills were Scott Chandler (foot), Josh Nesbitt, Sam Young, Jarron Gilbert, Kamar Aiken and Kendi Onobun.