ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — C.J. Spiller refuses to let a season-opening dud get in the way of his pursuit to establish himself as one of the NFL's elite.
So long as he keeps his hands on the ball and frustrations in check, the Buffalo Bills running back sees no reason for concern.
"There's no need to panic," he said after practice Wednesday. "The main thing for me is I can't get frustrated. I just have to keep a smile on my face, good or bad play, and move on. I think Sunday I showed a bad example of too much frustration in letting them dictate how I play."
Spiller's emotions spilled over in a 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots.
He was knocked off his game from the start, losing a fumble on the second play from scrimmage. It got worse two possessions later. Spiller acknowledged he briefly pulled himself off the field out of anger for being limited to an 8-yard run after getting tackled in the open by safety Steve Gregory.
"I kind of got frustrated right there in that moment, because I feel I should win that battle every time," Spiller said.
Add it up and the Bills most dynamic threat finished with pedestrian numbers: 17 carries for 41 yards and five catches for 14 yards. It was a sluggish start for a player who spent much of the offseason believing he was capable of building off a breakout season last year, when he finished second in the NFL in averaging just over 6 yards per carry.
Perhaps, Spiller suggested, he was expecting too much of himself too soon.
"I just tried to make too many plays where I was forcing it," he said. "I was looking for that big play each time, and it hurt us. And it hurt me."
He also had some personal baggage to contend with. Spiller is still coming to grips with the lingering emotions that came after his step-grandfather shot and killed two people before killing himself in Florida three weeks ago.
"There was a lot going through my brain," Spiller acknowledged. "But I'm not going to use that as an excuse. And I can't use that as a crutch throughout the season. If I play bad, I'm going to man up and say I played bad."
And now he intends on focusing on playing better as the Bills prepare to host the Carolina Panthers (0-1) on Sunday.
"I'm not worried about that performance derailing or having an effect on the whole season. It's just one game," Spiller said. "I've done moved it behind me."
The challenge for Spiller to bounce back doesn't get much easier in facing a defense that's stout against the run.
The Panthers limited the Marshawn Lynch-led Seattle to 70 yards rushing in a 12-7 loss to the Seahawks last weekend. That extended a string to five games dating to last season in which then Panthers have not given up more than 70 yards rushing.
Carolina's defense features a physical front seven that includes hard-hitting linebacker Luke Kuechly, the NFL's defensive rookie of the year last season.
Spiller understands the Panthers are likely to key on him.
"I embrace the challenge," he said. "My biggest thing is I just have to go back to my basics. There were a lot of runs I missed out there Sunday that I wish I would've made. The good thing is now I've seen it. Now I can correct it."
The Bills do have the benefit of having a 1-2 running back punch with veteran Fred Jackson serving as Spiller's backup.
On Sunday, Jackson provided Buffalo's ground game a boost by finishing with 67 yards on 13 carries. Jackson and Spiller combined for 43 yards from scrimmage on a third quarter-opening, 80-yard drive that ended with Stevie Johnson's 18-yard touchdown catch.
It's Spiller, however, whom the Bills are counting upon to provide the spark to their newly introduced up-tempo attack.
Jackson isn't worried about Spiller's ability to bounce back.
"I think he's going to be very motivated," Jackson said. "He just didn't play well. And any time you don't play well, the No. 1 thing you want to do when you get that opportunity to go out and play again is you want to showcase yourself."
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