The brutality to football is an accepted fact. That acceptance doesn't make its reality easy.

The Bengals lost All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins Thursday night to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament during the second quarter of their 22-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Atkins planted his leg while attempting to fight through a block on what would be a three-yard run by Dolphins running back Lamar Miller with just over four minutes left in the first half.

The force of Atkins' compact 6-foot-1, 303-pound frame planting into the natural grass against the weight of an offensive lineman was too much for his right knee. Before he hit the ground there was trouble. Miller landing on the knee at the end of the play certainly didn't help matters but the most severe damage was already done.

An MRI Friday in Cincinnati confirmed the Bengals' fears from Thursday night.

The loss of Atkins could end up being bigger in the long run than the loss on the scoreboard, especially when put in combination with the previous losses of cornerback Leon Hall, safety Taylor Mays, defensive end Robert Geathers and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. Atkins was the high motor foundation of the Bengals defense, a unit that starts everything with its defensive line.

According to NFL national writer Brian McIntire, the Bengals will have $20.7 million in cap dollars on injured reserve once Atkins is officially placed on the season-ending list. That's the third-most in NFL & 15.4 percent of their adjusted cap number. Atkins will become the eighth player on IR for the Bengals. All eight are on the defense.

"We're still trying to swallow that right now," said nose tackle Domata Peko in the postgame locker room. "That's one of the best players in the whole league, Geno. Hopefully it ain't too bad of an injury. We've just got to move on. Next man up has to come out and turn up and play better. I think all of us are going to have to get better missing big Geno. He's a lot to the defense and a big part of this team."

The Bengals have nine days before they face division rival Baltimore on the road. That's followed with a home game against Cleveland on Nov. 17 and then the bye week. At 6-3, the Bengals are still in first place in the AFC North by two games over Baltimore (3-4) and 2½ over Cleveland (3-5). The Ravens and Browns play in Cleveland on Sunday, a matchup that is going to prove critical for the winner.