The Cincinnati Bengals have lost one of the players they can least afford to be without. Coach Marvin Lewis confirmed Friday that Geno Atkins suffered a torn right ACL in Cincinnati's loss to Miami, an injury that will knock the two-time Pro Bowler out of commission for the remainder of the season.
Atkins' injury occurred on a 3-yard run by Lamar Miller, in the second quarter of Cincinnati's 22-20 overtime loss. Atkins' leg appeared to give out while he was being blocked, before a pile of players fell on top of him. The Bengals' star defensive tackle needed to be helped off the field by a pair of teammates, then was carted to the locker room just before halftime.
Lewis revealed after the game that the Bengals' training staff believed Atkins had injured his ACL, and a Friday MRI confirmed that fact.
"It sucks because he’s one of the best," fellow Bengals defensive lineman Domata Peko said. "He is a big part of our defense. He is a hell of a player."
The loss of Atkins for the remainder of the season is a crushing blow for a Cincinnati team with Super Bowl aspirations. The 25-year-old Atkins, who inked a five-year, $55 million extension in early September, was a first-team All-Pro last season and was named to the Pro Bowl in both 2011 and '12. He was absolutely dominant for much of last season, finishing with 12.5 sacks and 49 QB hurries.
Atkins has been the linchpin of a stalwart Bengals defensive front that also includes Peko, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Dunlap turned in arguably the highlight of Thursday's first half, chasing down running back Lamar Miller and stripping him of the football after a 41-yard gain.
Brandon Thompson, a 2012 third-round pick, replaced Atkins in the lineup against Miami. Both he and 2012 second-rounder Devon Still (who's nursing an elbow injury of his own) likely will inherit larger roles moving forward, though the AFC North-leading Bengals have no one that can fill Atkins' shoes fully. They may have to venture into a thinned-out free agent market to look for additional bodies.
Though Cincinnati still sits at 6-3 and with a two-game lead in the division, a growing injury list on defense has to be cause for concern. Atkins' unfortunate setback came less than two weeks after cornerback Leon Hall exited a win over Detroit with a season-ending Achilles injury. Defensive end Robert Geathers also was lost for the year on an elbow injury suffered in Week 2.
"We never replaced Robert. We came in heavy and now we'll be thin," Lewis said Friday. "We'll be looking at some kind of adjustment." Cincinnati heads to Baltimore next Sunday for what may loom as a crucial game in the AFC North. Should the Ravens take down Cleveland this Sunday, the defending champions would be just 1.5 games back of the Bengals heading into Week 10.