CINCINNATI (AP) — A pair of third-place teams knew exactly what this one meant. Either the Bills or the Bengals were going to walk off the field feeling their season was just about gone.
Despite losing two more key players, the Bills were the ones still standing at the end.
LeSean McCoy ran 7 yards for a touchdown before suffering a thumb injury on Sunday, and Buffalo's defense held on at the end for a 16-12 victory over Cincinnati Bengals.
"We're in a desperate position," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "You look at it: We were kind of two teams teetering on the brink."
The Bills (5-5) had lost three straight heading into their bye week. When they lost both McCoy and top receiver Robert Woods in the first half, things looked bleak. They piled up 183 yards on the ground — the most against the Bengals this season — to bust out of their long slump.
They've got yet more injury problems, but at least they're still in position to end their run of 16 seasons without a playoff appearance.
"I feel deflated about the injuries," coach Rex Ryan said. "I know what this team can do. If we are healthy, we are going to be pretty tough."
By contrast, the Bengals (3-6-1) are in danger of not making the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Playing their first game at Paul Brown Stadium in nearly a month, they couldn't move the ball consistently or make an extra point.
"Yes, it's tiring," cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones said. "It's depressing. It's nerve-wracking. Whatever you want to call it."
To make matters worse for Cincinnati, receiver A.J. Green left with a severely injured right hamstring on the Bengals' first pass of the game. He couldn't bend the leg and was taken off on a cart.
"You never want to lose a guy like that," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "He's the best receiver in the league, so when you lose him it hurts."
Some takeaways from Buffalo's slump-busting win:
RUN IT: Even with McCoy out, the Bills showed why they were ranked No. 2 in the league in rushing. Mike Gillislee filled in and picked up 72 yards, averaging 5.1 per carry. The Bills averaged 5.4 overall against a defense that has struggled to stop the run all season.
"It's good to spread the ball around," said quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who ran for 39 yards. "It wasn't pretty by any means, but we got a win and that's all that really matters."
DEFENSIVE TURNAROUND: The Bills came in leading the league with 30 sacks, but they'd also given up a lot of big plays as well — seven completions of at least 50 yards. After Green got hurt, they clamped down and didn't allow a completion of more than 21 yards. They knocked down Dalton's desperation pass in the end zone to end it.
"It's a look-at-me-now moment," Bills linebacker Preston Brown said.
A.J.'s INJURY: The Bengals will be without Green for the foreseeable future. He ranked third in the league in catches and second in yards receiving. He's their only consistent deep threat, and it showed against the Bills. None of the other receivers had a catch of more than 16 yards.
CAN'T RUN IT: Cincinnati had trouble running the ball again, which played into the Bills' hands. Jeremy Hill managed only 62 yards on 16 carries. The Bengals ran for a total of 93, only 3.4 yards per carry.
"All season, it's been mistake after mistake," Hill said.
UPRIGHT KICKS: Mike Nugent hit the upright on both of his extra-point attempts while compensating 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."