CINCINNATI – It was one step forward, two steps back on the injury front for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus returned to the lineup, but the offense suffered two more significant losses when wide receiver Robert Woods and running back LeSean McCoy were lost for the game during a 16-12 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
“Obviously, those are some big ones,” coach Rex Ryan said of the loss of his top two offensive options. “It seems like we are a bit snake-bit this year.”
Woods was hurt with less than 3 minutes to play in the first quarter when his left leg got bent awkwardly underneath him after a 13-yard reception. He was hit by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the play. Burfict, who has a reputation for dirty play, appeared to have hit Woods late.
“I told the official what I thought, but it is what it is,” Ryan said. “He had a Buffalo helmet on.”
The injury came as Woods was playing his best football of the season. Coming off a 10-catch, 162-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks in Week Nine, he had three catches for 41 yards in the first quarter before getting hurt.
“I’m feeling bad for myself, but yeah, probably for Robert, too,” Ryan said. “He is playing great. He’s a heck of a receiver.”
Woods underwent an MRI after the game, and the team is awaiting its results.
McCoy, meanwhile, suffered a left thumb injury in the second quarter when he was tackled by Bengals safety Shawn Williams after an 8-yard gain.
He ran straight to the locker room after the play before being officially ruled out during the third quarter, finishing his day with five carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, as well as two catches for 12 yards.
The Bills announced after the game that McCoy suffered a dislocated thumb that would require surgery, but that he’s expected to play in Week 12.
Safety Robert Blanton was also hurt during the game. He suffered a left foot injury that had him on crutches in the locker room afterward.
In better injury news, Dareus finished with four tackles, 0.5 sacks and a pass defended after missing four of the past five games because of hamstring and groin injuries.
"It was the last play of the game, and I looked at him and told him, 'get in there, big guy.' We needed to get the big dude going," Ryan said. "He might not be 100 percent right now, but he's healthy. I mean, it's tough. He's got a hamstring, and he's got this and that. We need to get him ... in that sort of football shape. Guys know he's as good as it gets inside."
* * *
It was a happy homecoming for Bills receiver Brandon Tate, who spent his last five seasons with the Bengals.
Tate had two catches for 48 yards, but his biggest contribution was in his main role as a returner. He averaged 33 yards on two kickoff returns and 11 yards on three punt returns.
“I go off instinct and trusting the other 10 guys to go out there and do their job,” he said. “They trust me to make the right decision, so once we’re on the same page, we should be pretty good.”
Tate spent five years with the Bengals and is the team’s all-time leader in punt-return yards. He’s also second in kick-return yardage.
“It’s different, but it’s the NFL,” he said of going to the visiting locker room. “You’re not going to be with the same team forever.”
With 66 kick-return yards, Tate became the 31st player in NFL history to top 5,000 career yards. He now has 5,022 in eight seasons.
“It’s good for us, just to get this win to get rolling,” he said.
* * *
Kicker Dan Carpenter drilled a clutch, 54-yard field goal in the third quarter that gave the Bills a 13-12 lead. It was his 14th field goal of 50-plus yards with the Bills, breaking the franchise record of 13 held by Steve Christie.
“Man, that was as deep as it could get, and he came through,” Ryan said. “The funny thing, though, is he ran out there without any hesitation. I was debating what to do, and he answered that question. He was confident, and he really was the difference. Huge, huge kick for us.”
* * *
Defensive tackle Corbin Bryant missed his second straight game because of a shoulder injury. He was the only injured player among the Bills’ inactives, the rest of which were quarterback Cardale Jones, receiver Walter Powell, cornerback Marcus Roberson, linebacker Brandon Spikes, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and tight end Gerald Christian.
* * *
The Bills’ captains Sunday were receiver Brandon Tate, linebacker Preston Brown, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington (Cincinnati natives), defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (native of Dayton, Ohio) and Seantrel Henderson, who was active for the first time in nearly a year, and rotated in with Jordan Mills at right tackle.
Brown said he secured about 50 tickets to the game for family and friends.