CINCINNATI (AP) — The depleted Bills lost their top receiver and their top running back during what felt like an elimination game.
They had just enough left to be the one 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 the 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. Their ragged win on Sunday preserved their hopes of a long-awaited playoff spot. Their injury-limited offense piled up 183 yards on the ground — the most against the Bengals this season.
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.
“I’ve only had one losing year since I’ve been here,” said cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who joined the team in 2010. “Yes, it’s tiring. It’s depressing. It’s nerve-wracking. Whatever you want to call it.”
The Bengals also lost receiver A.J. Green to an injured right hamstring on the first pass of the game, a setback that will limit their offense the rest of the season. Green barely bent the leg as he was helped to the sideline and then taken off on a cart. Coach Marvin Lewis had no details on the extent of the injury.
Buffalo’s defense finished the win by knocking down Andy Dalton’s desperation pass into the end zone on the final play. The Bengals managed only five first downs while being shut out in the second half by a defense that was under pressure after giving up a lot of big plays all season.
“It’s a look-at-me-now moment,” Bills linebacker Preston Brown said.
The Bills lost two of their top offensive players in the first half. Receiver Robert Woods suffered a knee injury as he was tackled after a catch. McCoy hurt his left thumb late in the half. It’s unclear how long both will be sidelined.
Buffalo also overcame a lot of self-inflicted mistakes. The Bills had nine penalties for 75 yards. Tyrod Taylor threw an interception to Dre Kirkpatrick at the Bengals 1-yard line late in the first half.
The Bengals had their own follies. Mike Nugent missed two extra points, hitting both off the right upright. Nugent has missed three of his past seven PATs.
Nugent tried to compensate for the wind, and wound up kicking them too far right.
“It just drives me crazy to have a poor performance that contributes to a loss,” Nugent said.
McCoy finished with 39 yards and passed Marshawn Lynch (11,091) for 75th place on the NFL’s all-time scrimmage yards list. … Dan Carpenter kicked a 54-yard field goal, setting a Bills record with 14 kicks from 50 yards away. Steve Christie had 13 field goals of 50 yards. … The Bengals have allowed 180 yards rushing three times this season. Dallas and Cleveland both ran for 180 yards.
Taylor was 19 of 27 for 166 yards with an interception. He also ran nine times for 39 yards. Dalton was 24 of 43 for 207 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Bills: DT Marcell Dareus was active for only the second time this season. He was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, then missed four of next five games with hamstring and groin injuries.
Bengals: LB Rey Maualuga was inactive with an injured leg despite having a full practice last week. … Kirkpatrick missed most of the fourth quarter with an injured left knee.
Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore had the second two-interception game of his career. He has a career-high four interceptions this season and 13 in his career.
Bills: They host Jacksonville . They lost to the Jaguars 34-31 in London last season. Four of the Bills’ last six games are at home.
Bengals: They play a pivotal AFC North game at Baltimore . They also finish the regular season at home against the Ravens.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL