C.J. Spiller has scored just two touchdowns in a New Orleans Saints uniform, but give the running back bonus points for dramatic flair.
The first Spiller Thriller was an 80-yard, game-winning catch-and-run on the second play of overtime, helping New Orleans pull out a 26-20 victory over Dallas on Oct. 4 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The second came Sunday, a 9-yard pass from Drew Brees with 36 seconds remaining to pull the Saints into a tie at 49 with the New York Giants, in a game the Saints would go on to win 52-49 on Kai Forbath's game-winning, 50-yard field goal as time expired.
They have been two notable plays in the resurgence of the Saints (4-4), who have won four of their last five games – and three straight – after opening the season 0-3. New Orleans will attempt to get its record above .500 for the first time since the 2013 season, and to win its fourth straight home game, on Sunday in the Superdome against the Tennessee Titans (1-6).
"Aw, man, he's an elite athlete," said teammate Stephone Anthony, a rookie linebacker who has seen Spiller up close and personal. "He's going to be a tough cover for a DB (defensive back), linebacker, safety or whoever has to cover him at that time. He's a tough out."
Especially, it appears, for linebackers.
On each of his scores he victimized a linebacker, once on a route down the right sideline (he caught Brees' pass before the defense totally was set, ran through a tackle attempt and outran anyone else who had an angle), and next on an option route where the linebacker had absolutely no chance, given the space he'd ceded to Spiller.
"I'm happy just to be at the right place at the right time," said Spiller, who caught two passes for 15 yards against the Giants. He now has 23 catches for 196 yards this season, and has run 20 times for 78 yards.
"I'm just going out there and doing my job. You always hear players talk about you never know when that moment is going to come or when that turning point is going to come for the game, but you want to make sure you're in position and that you're ready to go.
"We called a play and I had worked on it a ton leading up to the game, so all the work that I had put in throughout the week paid off."
It's part of Spiller's comeback process.
He missed most of training camp and the regular-season opener after having knee surgery, then was worked back into the rotation slowly. But his workload and comfort have increased.
"It's always tough when you're out for most of the preseason," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's healthy now and, obviously, he's comfortable with the offense, the terminology and the system. We used him quite a bit yesterday in empty packages and one-back packages, and he ends up with the game-tying touchdown.
"He did a really good job on a choice route on the weakside linebacker. He's a smart player, competitor and in those big moments, is comfortable making a play and understands that the quarterback is going to find him in the right coverage."
Said Spiller: "I think each and every week, the better I improve and the better I've been able to showcase. I think they have a good idea of what I can bring to the table, as far as helping the offense, making plays. We're going to continue to try and find ways to get me more involved."
They'd like the impact to occur early, of course. But Spiller has shown that he can do just as much damage, if not more, later in the game.
Locker room photos from after the Saints win vs the Giants. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)