Sunday’s game was one of extreme highs and lows as the Buffalo Bills ended on the losing side of yet another, this time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-27, dropping them to 0-5 this year on one-score games. While the Bills were the benefactors of several wins on the flip side last year, it’s unfortunate that any close game the Bills are in, they’ve lost. Is this a reflection on the talent of the team or the unpredictable nature that is NFL football? I’ll go with the latter.
As the Bills now have to fight for each and every win to make the playoffs, several injuries could derail these chances including ailments to several key players.
Below are the injuries from Sunday’s game and what it means moving forward.
QB Josh Allen (Left Foot Sprain)
Josh Allen has managed to avoid the injury report all year until 9:51 left in the 4th quarter on a 23-yard run going out of bounds. Allen was taken down from behind and came up limping, only leaving the field to get his ankle and toe taped up before returning.
Following the game, Allen was observed in a walking boot which he stated his foot was pretty sore. Official reports came out later indicating that it was indeed a left foot injury and that he would have an MRI on it the next day.
Initial reports indicated that Allen suffered what is known as turf toe. However, the team has clarified the injury as a foot sprain, but that he is day-to-day.
A foot sprain is just that, a sprain within the foot complex. A brief reminder, a sprain is the stretching and partial tearing of ligaments that connect bones together.
Looking at the anatomy, we can rule out any of the toes since the team noted that Allen does not have turf toe. The specification of the foot removes the ankle complex leaving the midfoot as the area for injury. We can consider the metatarsals as a possible site of injury. The anatomy of the foot is below.
There is not one specific ligament that was damaged, the complex as a whole was injured. The midfoot complex allows for weight-bearing as a rigid structure, shock absorption, and balance. The midfoot is made up of the navicular, cuboid, medial, middle, and lateral cuneiforms. The foot is used as a lever to propel the body forward and this requires the midfoot to stay rigid as a support in order to make this happen.
These injuries can occur with cutting and twisting motions or when the foot is placed in plantar flexion (pointed down) and an axial load is placed through it. An axial load is when there is a force through the longitudinal axis of an object. In this case, the force was placed through the heel of the foot with the front of the foot fixed into the ground. This is also why the turf toe was considered as that is a similar mechanism of injury.
There isn’t a ton of studies out there detailing foot sprains in the NFL with regards to performance, specifically regarding quarterbacks. The one study I did come across indicates that a Grade I sprain has a return-to-play timeline of 1 week whereas a Grade II would be closer to 5 weeks. Considering the day-to-day designation, it’s strongly assumed that this is a Grade I.
Another study from the NCAA shows a similar timeframe of 6 days of average time lost from a midfoot sprain specifically. Injuring the midfoot is clearly better than having turf toe as the national reporters had initially stated.
Despite the brief timeline to return, I would expect he at least feels the effects of the injury for the next month, but he may only be moderately affected for the next two weeks. I don’t expect them to have any designed run plays unless they are at the goal line for the Panthers game. This doesn’t mean that he won’t run if the play breaks down, but he may feel the effects of the injury as the game progresses.
He may have trouble following through on his deeper passes as he has to push through the lead foot, leading to some potential inaccuracies. This could be overcome if he has time in the pocket and works the shorter game, hoping for yards after the catch, though the team has been lacking in that department this season.
There is a chance that he misses the Panthers game, but considering the playoffs in the balance, I don’t anticipate that he sits this out. If he misses, it’s because the coaches see the bigger picture and truly believe they can win with Mitch Trubisky. I expect him to be limited all week with getting one full practice on Friday.
It’s also worth noting that rookie WR Marquez Stevenson suffered a similar injury in the preseason game against the Chicago Bears and played the next week. It is important to note that the team placed him on injured reserve which either meant an aggravation of the injury in the Green Bay Packers game or this was a strategic plan to hold onto as much talent coming out of training camp.
In order for the Bills to maximize Allen’s healing, they will need to limit designed runs, have the offensive line protect him to limit scrambling, and pull him once the game is in hand if it gets to that point.
WR Emmanuel Sanders (Knee)
Sanders was reported to have a knee injury late in the 2nd quarter, initially ruled questionable before later being ruled out prior to the second half starting.
Looking back at the film, he played in 25 plays with the injury appearing to occur with 1:08 left in the 2nd quarter. This is the play when Josh Allen gets intercepted and Sanders was behind the play. Sanders looks to get pushed out of bounds by his defensive assignment and begins hopping on his left leg. He then bends down to grab his right knee and appears to be in some discomfort before walking out of the shot.
My initial thoughts are that there is an MCL sprain or possible meniscus, but the mechanism of injury does not suggest either. On the endzone All-22 view, he is seen grabbing at the outside portion of his knee, but it’s not clear how he exactly injured the area. This will be something that I continue to dig into as more information becomes available.
Regardless of when it happened, Sean McDermott noted that he will likely be out for Sunday and that his injury is week-to-week.
RB Taiwan Jones (Left Knee)
Jones suffered a left knee injury while on a punt with 10:05 left in the 1st quarter. Acting as the gunner, Jones worked his way down the field until the punt was caught and then he went in pursuit to the ball carrier. He got to the pile and appeared to get his left knee hit by someone else flying into the various bodies.
He briefly left with a questionable designation before returning to play in 23 total plays on special teams. This appears to be more of a generalized knee contusion that could potentially land him on the injury report later on, but I don’t expect that he misses any games with this injury.
OL Jon Feliciano (Left Calf)
Feliciano was activated from injured reserve with a left calf injury but only played in 5 snaps on special teams. This was by design as seen below.
Hopefully, he can be reintroduced back into the offensive line come Sunday and regain his starting role.
The Bills are 7-6 and clinging onto maintaining control in making the playoffs without help. The AFC has been wild which has helped and hurt the Bills in that they’re still in the picture but they haven’t been able to pull away from anyone.
Despite the Carolina Panthers being in the NFC, this game and the remaining ones still mean a ton and could change the fortunes of the team for a potential playoff run. Anything can happen once the playoffs start; they just have to get in.
We will learn a lot more this week about each injury and how things are shaping up for Sunday’s game at home against the Panthers to move to 8-6 and a playoff spot.
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