Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — CLEVELAND — C.J. Spiller is already linked to Jim Brown in the record books. On Sunday, he’ll be in the Hall of Famer’s company.
Buffalo’s faster-than-fast running back, who joined Brown as the only players in NFL history to average 10 yards or better per carry through two games, will have a chance to perform for one of the game’s all-time greats when the Bills visit the Cleveland Browns. Brown, who has been at odds with his former team the past two years, will attend the game and take part in a halftime ceremony.
While Spiller is thrilled to be mentioned alongside Brown, he won’t do anything extra to impress him.
“It’s great to be mentioned in the same breath as one of the greatest ever to play the position,” Spiller said. “But that means nothing to me. I don’t get caught up with who’s in the stands or who’s not in the stands. None of that stuff really matters.”
Spiller’s strong start has been significant.
With 292 yards in two games, he leads the league in rushing and he’s averaging an eye-popping 10.1 yards per carry. Only the magnificent Brown’s 11.3 yard average after two games in 1963 is better among players with at least 25 attempts. Spiller also has a higher per carry average (5.4 yards) than any player in Buffalo’s history, ahead of another Hall of Famer, O.J. Simpson.
Not bad for a guy who was backing up Fred Jackson last season.
“It’s a humbling experience to be mentioned with those two guys,” Spiller said of his connection to Brown and Simpson. “Those are two of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. But I can’t dwell on the success we’ve had because it’s a long season. Our main goal is to make the playoffs.”
That’s big talk from the Bills, once perennial postseason performers who haven’t been to the playoffs in 12 years, the league’s longest active drought. But an impressive 35-17 win at home over Kansas City last week has renewed hope this could be a bounce-back season for Buffalo, which went 6-10 in 2011.
However, before the Bills can start dreaming of snow-covered playoff games at home, they’d better solve their issues on the road. Buffalo has dropped eight straight away games, a string that dates back to last season’s opener at Kansas City.
“That is not a good stat,” said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. “It is obviously too long, too many games in there that we have lost on the road. I do not know if you can pin it on one thing. It is always easier playing at home, tougher going to play an opponent at their place having to handle the crowd noise, the distractions and everything that goes with it
“That’s something which hopefully we break that trend in a hurry because if you do not win games on the road, then you are not going to be very successful.”
The Browns need a win anywhere they can get one.
Cleveland’s lost eight straight games dating to last season, and are in jeopardy of dropping to 0-3. With upcoming road games at Baltimore and the New York Giants, the sense of urgency could be reaching the crisis stage for coach Pat Shurmur, whose future hinges on his club making major improvements in his second seasons.
With the Browns about to be taken over by new owner Jimmy Haslam III, Shurmur may need a few wins to bump up his resume.
“It’s important we win,” Shurmur said. “We’ve got to win. We all understand the urgency of that and regardless of what’s happened to this point, there are other teams in this league that are in our situation that are fighting to get their first victory in Week 3. That’s where the coaches and players are mentally, physically, emotionally — doing what you can to get a victory in Week 3.”
There were encouraging signs for the Browns last week.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden recovered from a four-interception debut by passing for 322 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 loss at Cincinnati. Although the 28-year-old’s impressive outing didn’t lead to a victory, it did boost Weeden’s confidence and gave the Browns hope that better days are ahead.
Weeden knows the only progress that matters shows up in the win column.
“You don’t want to put yourself in a hole where you’re digging yourself out,” Weeden said. “Even though this isn’t a conference game, it’s still nice to get on a right track. You’ve got to kind of build some momentum before we play Baltimore on a short week. You want to win them all, but playing right at the right time is what’s most important in this league. We’ve got to start winning games. That’s all there is to it, and what better week to start than this week.”
For Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson, Sunday’s game will be a chance to impress Brown, who labeled him as “ordinary” leading into April’s draft. He was anything but ordinary against the Bengals, rushing for 109 yards and scoring two touchdowns, one of them on a 23-yard reception on which several Cincinnati players seemed afraid to hit him.
“They don’t want to tackle him,” Browns wide receiver Greg Little said.
It was the same way for Brown, Cleveland’s franchise rushing leader and the greatest Brown of them all.
Richardson can’t wait to show Brown he’s extraordinary.
“Just going into the game and knowing he’s going to be there now, it raises the stakes up higher,” Richardson said. “It’s going to be an honor just to be on the same field as him. He’s going to be out there watching me and hopefully he’ll give me a few words of wisdom while I’m out there. So I can’t wait to meet him, and I can’t wait to play in front of him.”