CINCINNATI (AP) — A.J. Green’s right foot caught the turf as he was tackled on Cincinnati’s first pass attempt. He rolled over onto his back and immediately grabbed his right hamstring.
And he stayed down.
In that moment, the Bengals knew the game — and their season — had taken a turn.
Green suffered a significant injury to his right hamstring on Sunday and was taken off the field on a cart. Cincinnati couldn’t do anything consistently without its big-play receiver during a 16-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Sure, Andy Dalton’s two interceptions played a role. And Mike Nugent’s two missed extra points left the Bengals (3-6-1) needing a touchdown instead of merely a field goal at the end.
But nothing hurt more than the loss of Green, who was third in the league in catches and second in yards receiving.
“Definitely, missing A.J. was a big piece, and it hurt us a lot,” running back Jeremy Hill said.
Without Green to challenge deep, a Bills defense known for giving up big plays was able to clamp down.
Dalton’s longest completion was 21 yards to Tyler Eifert. The Bills had given up seven passes of 50 yards or longer, and their secondary was under criticism for its poor play overall.
When Green got hurt, the Bills were able to play their comfortable coverages.
“We had some things for him,” cornerback Ronald Darby said. “It changed things a lot when he went out.”
Coach Marvin Lewis had no information about the severity of Green’s injury. The durable receiver didn’t bend his leg as he was helped to the sideline and taken to a cart, an indication it was serious. The Bengals will have to figure on playing without him for the foreseeable future.
“You never want to lose a guy like that,” Dalton said . “He’s the best receiver in the league, so when you lose him it hurts.”
Some familiar problems returned as well. The Bengals couldn’t get their running game going — a problem all season long. Jeremy Hill had 62 yards, and the Bengals averaged only 3.4 yards per carry while getting 93 overall. Dalton had 10 of the yards.
Cincinnati had the ball six times in the second half and managed only five first downs. They went three-and-out on four straight possessions.
“All season, it’s been mistake after mistake,” Hill said.
When they scored touchdowns in the first half, Nugent hit the upright on his two extra-point attempts, his kicks thrown off as he compensated for the wind. Nugent also missed an extra point and a field goal during a 27-27 tie with Washington on Oct. 30 in London.
“It just drives me crazy to have a poor performance that contributes to a loss,” Nugent said. “That’s the second time that’s happened this year, that I’ve contributed enormously to a loss. If I did what I was brought here to do, we’d have two less losses, in my opinion.”
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