Shortly after the Buffalo Bills (12-3) arrived at Orchard Park on Sunday, January 8, ahead of their Week 18 matchup against the New England Patriots (8-8), safety Damar Hamlin sent a strong message to quarterback Josh Allen and the entire team.
While it was unclear how or if the Bills would be emotionally stable enough to take the field and play just six days after Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during Buffalo’s primetime matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, the 24-year-old’s remarkable recovery this past week has completely reinvigorated the team.
Minutes after Allen walked into Highmark Stadium rocking a custom No. 3 sweatshirt and hat, Hamiln made sure the team captain knew he appreciated the love. Hamlin tweeted a video of Allen’s entrance and wrote, “That’s My Quarterback 🏾.”
The entire team showed up in clothing dedicated to their teammate and if there was any unease about playing while Hamling remained hospitalized at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the Pittsburgh alum tweeted a message for his boys to put those feelings aside.
Hamlin shared a video of himself running out the tunnel at a home game and wrote, “GameDay.. Nothing I Want More Than To Be Running Out That Tunnel With My Brothers. God Using Me In A Different Way Today. Tell Someone You Love Them Today! 🏾3️⃣ let’s go @BuffaloBills ❤️💙.”
When the Bills defensive backs, Hamlin’s position group, huddled up before kickoff, “We feel him with us right now,” one person said, while Allen led his group huddle and pointed to the No. 3 patch on their jerseys to say, “We always say we play for the name on the front of the jersey not the name on the back.”
During the opening kickoff, Bills running back Nyheim Hines boogied straight down the field to take the ball in for a touchdown — an incredible, surreal way to start the game. Hamlin couldn’t believe it either. “OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” he tweeted.
While Hamlin tweeted several messages throughout the game to cheer Buffalo on, after the Bills officially defeated the Patriots 35-23, Hamlin announced a new initiative. He tweeted, “We all won 🏾. I want to give back an ounce of the love y’all showed me. Proceeds of this shirt will go to first-responders and the UC Trauma Center. Go get yours!”
Hamlin posted his first Instagram post and photo since his medical emergency on Friday, thanking everyone for their continued love and support.
The Bills Can Clinch No. 2 in the AFC With Win Over Patriots
Ahead of Week 17, the Bills sat in first place atop the AFC while the Bengals were right on their heels in third place just behind the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Bills-Bengals matchup declared a no-contest, the Bills no longer controlled their destiny. The only path for the Bills to retain the No.1 seed in the AFC was to beat the New England Patriots on Sunday, and hope the Chiefs lose to the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, the latter of which did not happen.
If the Bills lose to the Patriots, and the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18, Buffalo will fall to the No. 3 seed.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane said during a video press conference on Friday that no matter how this season shakes out, Buffalo has already won.
“I’ll probably get emotional if I talk too much about it, but I’m so proud of our organization, our team, just so many people the way we’ve dealt with so much this year,” Beane said. “Definitely not the way you draw it up. I don’t know what’s gonna happen the rest of season on the field, I really don’t. This is a group of winners, and I will forever remember this team, this season, the moments of it.
“I’m still hopefully optimistic that we can make a run. But I don’t know if there’s ever a team I’ll be more proud of than this.”
Jerod Mayo Called Patriots-Bills Game a ‘Plastic Bag Game’
While the Bills have already clinched their spot in the postseason, the Patriots must defeat Buffalo in Week 18 to snag the final AFC Wild Card. If the Patriots lose to the Bills, New England can still limp into the playoffs, but it’s a tall order. The Patriots would need both the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers to lose in Week 18, and for the Jacksonville Jaguars to win, per Yahoo! Sports.
With New England’s postseason hanging in the balance, Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo referred to their final regular season matchup as a “plastic bag game” while addressing the media on Friday, and the former Super Bowl champ explained why.
“Honestly, you win and you’re in, and that’s the mentality,” Mayo said. “There’s no speech or anything that a coach can give you. Either you win and you’re in the playoffs, or you lose and you go home. Plastic bag game.”
“That means if you lose, you get a big plastic trash bag,” Mayo explained, indicating that if the Patriots lose on Sunday, players need to quickly pack up their stuff to go home because their season is effectively over. “Trash bag game.”