ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Coach Chan Gailey had a pretty good idea of C.J. Spiller’s potential when the Buffalo Bills selected the running back with the ninth pick in the 2010 draft.
Gailey, however, isn’t going to pretend he thought Spiller would be this dynamic.
“I would like to tell you, ‘Oh, sure, I saw that,’ but that would be a lie,” Gailey said. “I knew he could be. I did not know whether it would happen or not.”
Two games into the season, Spiller is one of the NFL’s hottest running backs and a big reason why the Bills evened their record at 1-1 with a home-opening 35-17 rout of the woeful and winless Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Continuing to fill in for injured starter Fred Jackson, Spiller had 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and added another 47 yards receiving. That followed up his career-best 169 yards rushing in a season-opening 48-28 loss to the Jets last weekend.
“It’s always better to answer the questions when you win,” said Spiller, who giggled several times at the podium. “Fred Jackson challenged me today, when he told me to put the team on my back. So when that comes down from the leader in our room, you have to step your game up. I was ready to go today.”
Spiller suddenly finds himself in elite company.
With 292 yards on 29 carries, Spiller is averaging 10.1 yards per rush. That’s the highest average by an NFL player with a minimum of 25 carries through the first two games of a season since 1963, when Jim Brown averaged 11.3 yards (34 carries for 394 yards).
“C.J.’s a stud. That kid can run,” center Eric Wood said. “We’ve got plenty of weapons, and the good thing is we’re going to get Fred back.”
Jackson is set to miss another three weeks with a sprained right knee.
Thanks to Spiller and a high-priced defense that finally began playing to its potential with five sacks and three turnovers, the Bills might not be as bad they looked in their opener.
The same can’t be said about the Chiefs, who followed up one dud with another a week after opening the season with a 40-24 loss to Atlanta.
“I thought that we would be better, and we’re not,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “So we have to try and figure out what that is. From what I’ve seen, if we do what we’re supposed to do, then we would be better.”
KC’s offense managed just 71 yards on its first five possessions and then coughed up the ball on its sixth, when Peyton Hillis fumbled at the goal line late in the first half with the Bills up 21-0. Linebacker Nick Barnett forced the fumble by tripping up Hillis, who lost control of the ball, which was recovered by safety Bryan Scott.
“I messed up and let the team down,” Hillis said. “I put the blame on myself.”
Kansas City has opened a season 0-2 for the sixth time in seven years.
Matt Cassel finished 23 of 42 for 301 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, with much of that production coming in the fourth quarter after the Chiefs trailed 35-3. Dwayne Bowe scored the touchdowns on 33- and 2-yard catches.
The Chiefs were so thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the ball in the first half that Spiller’s 139 yards from scrimmage nearly matched Kansas City’s 148 yards net offense.
Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams had two sacks, and Mario Williams recovered a fumble after Alex Carrington stripped Cassel.
“We had a sense of urgency. It was just different from the very beginning,” Mario Williams said. “We went out there and put it all on the line. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen last week, but we have to build on this and continue.”
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shrugged off last week’s three-interception outing by going 10 of 19 for 178 yards and two touchdowns, including a 49-yarder to Stevie Johnson. And Buffalo’s special teams contributed: Leodis McKelvin returned a punt 88 yards.
The Bills had additional incentive to win the game in paying tribute to Marcell Dareus. The second-year defensive tackle played after traveling to his native Alabama to mourn the shooting death of his younger brother.
“He’s going through a rough time, but he felt responsibilities here,” Kyle Williams said. “He always picks our team up and we’re glad that he’s back.”
Despite being bothered by a shoulder injury, Dareus had a sack and two tackles, including one for a loss.
“The team rallied up around me. This is my release from whatever is going on in the outside world,” Dareus said. “I focused in on the football field and took everything else out of my head.”
NOTES — Spiller became the fourth Bills player to reach 100 yards in the first two games of a season, joining Jackson, Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson, who did that twice. ... Chiefs TE Kevin Boss will be re-evaluated after leaving the game with a head injury in the second quarter. CB Javier Arenas hurt his neck and did not return. ... McKelvin’s TD return was the second of his career, and the second-longest in team history, 3 yards short of the record set by Keith Moody in 1977.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
At Orchard Park, N.Y.
Bills 35, Chiefs 17
Kansas City 0 0 3 14 — 17
Buffalo 7 14 14 0 — 35
Buf — Spiller 17 run (Lindell kick), 2:01.
Buf — Spiller 5 run (Lindell kick), 12:29.
Buf — Chandler 10 pass from Fitzpatrick (Lindell kick), 3:29.
KC — FG Succop 33, 7:32.
Buf — St.Johnson 49 pass from Fitzpatrick (Lindell kick), 5:35.
Buf — McKelvin 88 punt return (Lindell kick), 3:46.
KC — Bowe 33 pass from Cassel (Succop kick), 6:26.
KC — Bowe 2 pass from Cassel (Succop kick), 1:10.
A — 69,402.
First downs 25 15
Total Net Yards 422 379
Rushes-yards 24-150 36-201
Passing 272 178
Punt Returns 4-61 3-98
Kickoff Returns 2-40 1-5
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 23-42-1 10-19-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 5-29 0-0
Punts 7-44.7 7-49.9
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 4-33 5-50
Time of Possession 30:39 29:21
RUSHING — Kansas City, Hillis 11-66, Draughn 5-56, Cassel 2-25, Charles 6-3. Buffalo, Spiller 15-123, Choice 8-37, Fitzpatrick 4-34, J.White 5-11, B.Smith 2-5, Thigpen 1-(minus 1), Dickerson 1-(minus 8).
PASSING — Kansas City, Cassel 23-42-1-301. Buffalo, Fitzpatrick 10-19-0-178.
RECEIVING — Kansas City, Bowe 8-102, McCluster 4-32, Baldwin 3-62, Charles 3-19, Hillis 2-25, Boss 1-29, Draughn 1-23, Moeaki 1-9. Buffalo, Spiller 3-47, St.Johnson 2-56, Chandler 2-53, B.Smith 1-16, Graham 1-7, Jones 1-(minus 1).