An MRI test on Friday confirmed that Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, leaving the AFC North leaders without another star player on defence.
The All-Pro lineman got the leg bent under him while trying to make a tackle during the first half of a 22-20 overtime loss at Miami on Thursday night. The medical staff initially thought he'd torn the ligament, and the test a day later in Cincinnati confirmed it.
The Bengals (6-3) didn't have many injuries during their opening push that left them in control of the AFC North, leading second-place Baltimore (3-4). They've suffered several significant injuries in the last three weeks.
Top cornerback Leon Hall is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Safety Taylor Mays also is gone with a dislocated shoulder. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga got a concussion and hurt his left knee during a 49-9 win over the Jets on Sunday and was on crutches during the week, out indefinitely.
Now, they've lost their top defensive lineman. Atkins led all NFL interior linemen in sacks with 12.5 last season and topped the Bengals with six so far this year.
The Bengals are short-handed on the defensive line. End Robert Geathers has been on injured reserve for most of the season with an elbow injury, and reserve tackle Devon Still has missed the last two games.
"We've lost, between Robert and Geno, two of the guys up front we count on for a lot," coach Marvin Lewis said.
Running back Giovani Bernard had a sensational game on Thursday, picking up 79 yards on nine carries and catching four passes for 25 yards. He had a 35-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that was one of the season's best, slipping out of a tackle in the backfield, running to the left sideline and cutting back across the field to tie the score, slipping away from defenders along the way.
He was sidelined late in the fourth quarter and in overtime by bruised ribs. Lewis said on Friday it's not expected to be a long-term injury.