Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills were evicted from cloud nine.
Gone was the buzz from the Mario Williams and Mark Anderson signings. Gone was the positive chatter about the Bills' 2012 draft class. Gone was the near-universal praise for the installation of a 4-3 defense and quarterbacks coach David Lee's tweaking of Ryan Fitzpatrick's mechanics.
All gone. Split apart like so many clouds before it.
There is plenty of blame to go around for yesterday's 48-28 throttling at the hands of the divisional rival Jets—and trust, there will be plenty of writers to dole out that blame—but it's important to note that positives were taken from the game too.
Quite a few of them, actually.
There are going to be a myriad of adjectives attached to the third-year Clemson product this morning, but chances are they're well deserved. Spiller's performance in the wake of starting tailback Freddy Jackson's leg injury was positively revelatory.
Sure, Spiller showed flashes last year. Big ones, even. But what the world saw in East Rutherford yesterday was a running back showing exactly why the Bills shocked the draft world in selecting him No. 9 over all in 2010, despite more pressing needs at other positions.
Spiller's been unfairly tagged by many as a scat back. A speedy, agile player that can hurt you in open space and can take runs off the edge. All of that is still true. Sunday, though, saw Spiller as a powerful, decisive runner that can follow blocks, hit holes and break arm tackles.
He showed the total package.
Down 41-7 in the middle of the third quarter, Spiller took a handoff on a routine dive play and was promptly greeted in the backfield by Jets defensive tackle Kendrick Ellis. The play could have stopped right there.
Instead, Spiller bounced immediately to the right, hurdled through a hole and an arm tackle in one motion, and then sprinted through four more New York defenders before being caught by Antonio Cromartie at the 1-yard line.
Spiller had amassed 169 yards and a touchdown before all was said and done, but it was the manner in which he did so that was most impressive.
There was no Freddy Jackson to keep the Jets off balance and there was no passing game to keep them from stacking the box. Spiller ran with vision and authority, and whether Jackson misses time with injury or not, the Bills will need a lot more of that.
The run defense
Through one game, there's reason to believe that's true.
The defense swarmed to the football throughout the entire game, keeping Shonn Greene from ever gaining traction and quelling any sort of wildcat looks that the Jets threw out. Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus both excelled in collapsing the inside of the pocket, forcing Greene to the outside, well outside his comfort zone.
When Tim Tebow came out as a part of the wildcat package, the Bills stuffed him too. With just 11 yards on five rushing attempts, Tebow was completely ineffectual and much of that can be attributed to how well the Bills linebackers moved laterally.
Arthur Moats in particular had a great day tracking both Tebow and Greene and helping to keep them from ever getting into the second level of the defense.
The offensive line
An anchor for the Bills last year, the offensive line looked stout in both run and pass blocking on Sunday, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick plenty of time. Time which he used to throw ill-advised passes across his body, into tight coverage, and directly to Antonio Cromartie, but plenty of time nonetheless.
The Jets did get a couple of sound hits on the Bills signal-caller, but weren't able to sack him and never really were able to get very close. The pocket was strong for most of the game, Fitzpatrick just couldn't make the most of it.
Spiller, as has already been discussed, did make the most of it.
The line opened some sizable lanes for him—especially with Wood and Levitre working in tandem just left of center—and got good push to keep Spiller from taking losses on runs.
The Bills clearly have much work to do, but the season is in its infancy and Week 1 could be seen as an aberration weeks from now. If that's to be the case, these three positives will have set the foundation for any future successes.
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