ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As Taiwan Jones lay face down in the back of the Buffalo Bills' end zone, his white headband swiftly turned red as blood gushed from his forehead.
But as the Bills' backup running back and core special-teams player instinctively covered his wound with both hands Sunday, his health was not his only concern. He was simply upset that he allowed the play to happen.
It was Jones' job to block Chargers cornerback Michael Davis on a third-quarter punt by Los Angeles. Yet Davis sped by Jones and popped Bills punt returner Marcus Murphy as the ball landed in his chest, causing it to bounce away toward the end zone.
The play would later be ruled as a muffed punt by the Bills, who never officially gained possession. That meant Jones could have recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback, but because he did not know whether Murphy had possession, Jones treated the play as a potential safety.
"Believe it or not, I was kind of upset at myself because I allowed [Davis] to make that tackle on Murph," Jones said Wednesday. "I felt like if I just did my job, it would have prevented all of that from happening."
Jones picked up the ball in the end zone and attempted to advance it to avoid what he thought would be a safety. He was hit immediately by Chargers linebacker Kyle Emanuel, shaking him off. Next came Chargers safety Adrian Phillips, who pulled down on the back of Jones' helmet while trying to wrap him up.
Jones' helmet flew off. He spun toward the back of the end zone and began to turn upfield to find another path. Before the play could be whistled dead because of Jones' lost helmet, the shoulder pad of Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu slammed into Jones' bare head, dropping him to the ground.
"I didn't know what to think," Murphy said Thursday. "I just saw my guy on the ground with the blood on his headband. I couldn't do nothing but say a prayer and wish that it turned out good. It was a scary play. That was one of the scariest, most dangerous plays I've ever seen."
Bills wide receiver Andre Holmes was one of the first teammates to reach Jones, waving to the sideline for help when he saw blood.
"Usually you don't see people get hit with their helmet off," he said. "This was such a bang-bang deal."
Jones remained on the ground for several minutes as Bills doctors and trainers tried to slow his bleeding. He then walked up the adjacent tunnel to the Bills' locker room, where he said he received about 10 stitches. Jones then was taken to a hospital for scans.
Remarkably, Jones didn't suffer a concussion despite the jolting impact without the protection of a helmet. He said Wednesday that his neck was sore, but otherwise his only injury was the large bruise across his forehead, bookended by stitches over his eye and near his hairline.
"I definitely feel blessed to be able to walk away from that," he said. "We see guys get hit like that with their helmet on and some guys don't get up on their own strength. I definitely feel blessed I don't have a concussion. Just take it day to day and hopefully I can go Sunday."
Jones did not wear a helmet to Wednesday's practice but wore one Thursday. He was listed as a limited participant both days on the Bills' injury report.
Nwosu was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play and later issued an apology.
"I appreciate that a lot," Jones said. "I didn't think it was on purpose. I didn't think it was a dirty play. It's football. It's unfortunate. It was a bang-bang play."
The play was ruled a touchback. Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, a member of the NFLPA's executive committee, wished after the game that officials had blown the play dead more quickly.
"You wish the refs, as soon as the helmet comes off, blows it," he said. "That's a fast play, so I'm not even mad at the guy, essentially because Taiwan was still trying to run. It happens bang-bang. You're hoping he would pull off and maybe try to tackle him at his legs."
Holmes pointed to more improvements in helmets as a way to keep them from being ripped off during play.
"I think some of the helmets don't allow it to fall off," he said. "I'm not sure which helmet he was using, but I think earlier in the game, someone else's helmet got pulled off, too, on the other team.
"My helmet's never popped off before. I'm sure it could, if someone gets a good hold of it. But hopefully I'm not caught in that situation."