The Bills did it! In the face of adversity, fighting for their playoff lives, the Bills defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 to move to 7-6 on Sunday. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, there was concern for the Chiefs to once again get that late touchdown that puts them over the top. However, the Bills’ defense stepped up and shut down another Mahomes game-winning drive and showed the Bills aren’t done yet.
Coming into the game, the Bills were fairly healthy with no players missing due to injury. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said after the game with several injuries to key contributors.
Below are the injuries coming out of the game and concerns moving forward.
DE AJ Epenesa (Left Ribs)
Epenesa suffered a rib injury on his interception of Patrick Mahomes early in the first quarter as seen below.
He was initially questionable to return and did return for one play as seen in the second clip, but quickly motioned off following the play, doubtful to return.
The first injury didn’t initially show much which may have been due to the offensive lineman falling on Epenesa which caused the injury. The second injury didn’t show much either but the fact he got twisted down like he did suggests it aggravated whatever he injured.
It’s not clear whether the rib bones themselves are broken or whether the cartilage damage/costochondral separation could be in play as well.
If it’s the ribs, he can get an injection and flank jacket to go play. If it’s the rib cartilage, that is more difficult to manage pain-wise.
Rib cartilage is slower to heal and more difficult to manage because doctors can’t just numb it with an injection or protect it as much with padding.
There are several instances of players playing through rib fractures, especially Cole Beasley two years ago. But this may be more of a cautious approach with the potential playoffs looming.
Considering he is week-to-week, this suggests that he will miss at least the next game or two.
S Micah Hyde (Neck/stinger)
Hyde required attention from the training staff twice on nearly back-to-back plays. In the first play, it looks as though Greg Rousseau lands on him, either hitting him in the side or in the groin, leaving him needing a few moments to gather himself.
Fortunately, the team had elected to take a timeout so that he did not miss a play.
However, in the second instance where he required attention, this injury was the one that sent him out of the game. In the play above, Hyde makes contact with McKinnon and forces his head back and to the left. He can walk for several moments before going down in significant pain.
The team later announced that he was questionable with a stinger but did not return to the game.
On Monday, the team indicated that he would be week-to-week which isn’t surprising considering his history and the fact this is his third stinger in six weeks. The initial concern is that he damaged the fusion in his neck, but if that’s the case, he’d be shut down for the year. All along I’ve stated that I don’t believe his original fusion is compromised.
There is a minor concern that he has another herniated disc or stenosis in the area. The team did mention that he continues to aggravate the same area in his neck. This could be the result of the areas above or below the fusion area having to take more stress from a mobility standpoint due to the original area no longer having any mobility. This is unfortunately common with fusions years after the fact.
Another possibility is that the brachial plexus that branches off the nerve roots continues to be irritated with the hits. While there are similar conditions such as chronic burner syndrome and brachial neuritis, I don’t quite believe this is solely what is causing his issues. The former is where symptoms persist for several days leading to temporary loss of function. As for brachial neuritis, it has more of an insidious onset and is not always directly related to trauma.
Hyde’s specific complaints may come down to the nerve area being irritated from the prior hits. The new trauma to the area jars it and causes recurrent symptoms due to the already inflamed area.
Most of his hits have come to the left shoulder area which could have compressed the area previously. The sudden extension and rotation to the left could have stretched the already irritated nerves in the area. This is similar to what Rodger Saffold dealt with his last year in Tennessee before coming to the Buffalo Bills in 2022.
Saffold’s issues did not linger into that season with the Bills indicating that it’s more of an in-season issue than a lingering issue. Hyde’s prior neck issue certainly factors into his return-to-play decisions and with his latest hit, the team will be extra cautious to not throw him back out there. I don’t expect him to practice all week and I anticipate that he misses the Dallas Cowboys game.
As for the rest of the season, the team will focus on making sure he is maximizing his health to be ready should they make the playoffs.
However, it is far too soon to determine Hyde’s status beyond 2023.
LB Tyrel Dodson (Neck)
Dodson was the victim of friendly fire midway through the third quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Taylor Rapp as seen below.
His head snapped back, requiring a brief assessment from the training staff before he was ultimately cleared for return. He returned and as of publication, does not appear as though this should limit him heading into Week 15.
TE Dalton Kincaid (Right Shoulder)
Kincaid briefly had to leave the game following a fall onto his right shoulder late in the game as seen below.
He was probable to return but did not only because there was not a need as the last two offensive plays were kneel-downs. After the game, he underwent x-rays to assess for any potential damage to the area but after the game, he downplayed the injury indicating it was just part of football.
At worst, he will be on the injury report with a shoulder injury as he’s listed day-to-day but this should not limit him much and will allow him to play Sunday. One extra note worth mentioning, this was an aggravation of a shoulder injury, but the only other instance of right shoulder injury I can find is dated back to September.
C Mitch Morse (Right Ankle)
Morse got clipped on this 7-yard run by Ty Johnson late in the fourth quarter. While Morse did not miss any time, this is worth noting if he shows up on the injury report.
LB Von Miller (Right Knee)
Miller went without the knee brace for the first time this season and appeared to make a notable difference in his performance.
Sunday’s game was several days past the one-year mark from when he underwent ACL reconstructive surgery following his knee injury on Thanksgiving. While the absence of a knee brace won’t allow him to fully return to form quite yet, it may allow him to play a little more freely in bending the edge and getting in the backfield. The presence of a knee brace as he came back likely came down to physician preference as the use of a brace following ACL reconstruction in return to sport is varied with different opinions.
He still has more work to do but this is a step in the right direction.
Overall, the Bills took care of business and secured the win. They’re going to need 10 or 11 wins for the playoffs and now they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The Cowboys are fairly healthy following their Week 14 win over the Eagles and right now will only be without DT Johnathan Hankins who suffered a high-ankle sprain. The Bills can certainly capitalize on being at home next week in the cold weather to secure a much-needed win. This is the one game they can afford to lose but with the lack of tiebreakers in the AFC, wins will be beneficial over any AFC tiebreaker.
The Bills need to continue to chase wins.
Top Photo Credit: Jeff Dean/Getty Images