The Buffalo Bills‘ 35-23 defeat over the New England Patriots on Sunday, January 8 was emotionally charged from the get-go, as running back Nyheim Hines ran the opening kickoff 96 yards into the endzone, leaving viewers around the nation stunned.
While it was unclear whether the Bills would be able to push through and play their final regular season game after safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during their Monday Night Football matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, his incredible recovery this past week revived the team’s spirit.
During the postgame press conference, Bills quarterback Josh Allen allowed himself to be vulnerable while speaking about the team’s victory, in particular, that miraculous opening play.
While Hines pulled off another kickoff return touchdown in the third quarter, rushing 101 yards into the endzone, that first score “was spiritual,” Allen said. “It really was bone-chilling.” As for where this moment ranks in his football memories, “I can’t remember a play that touched me like that in my life. It’s probably No. 1… I was going around saying God’s real. You can’t draw that one up.”
The MVP candidate said he was informed that it’s been three years and three months since the Bills last had a kickoff return touchdown, which caused Allen to get choked up. The 26-year-old also commented on how he threw three touchdown passes and the defense caught three interceptions — nods to Hamlin’s No. 3 jersey that he couldn’t overlook.
Allen admitted that it wasn’t easy preparing for this week’s game, noting how several of his teammates had tears running down their eyes during the National Anthem. While there was “a feeling of uncertainty of what it’s like to get back out there,” Allen said, “our special teams helped out a lot with that.”
Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds shared a similar sentiment while speaking about Hines’ big play to open the game. “That opening kick, just to see how God works, that was crazy to witness,” Edmunds said.
As for Hines, whom the Bills acquired from the Colts just before the NFL’s November 1 trade deadline, he said after the game that Hamlin was of the first guys to make him feel welcome in Buffalo. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m so happy to be a Buffalo Bill,” Hines said, per WROC-TV‘s Thad Brown.
The Bills Will Face the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card Round Next Weekend
With the Bills-Bengals matchup declared a no-contest, the only path for the Bills to retain the No.1 seed in the AFC was to beat the Patriots, and hope the Chiefs lose to the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, the latter of which did not happen.
Therefore, the Bills (13-3) have clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Buffalo will host their division rival, the Miami Dolphins, at home in Orchard Park during the Wild Card round next weekend.
The Patriots are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Without defeating the Bills, New England (8-9) needed the Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers to lose in Week 18 in order to proceed into the postseason. However, Miami defeated the New York Jets 11-6, while the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 28-14.
Hamlin Tweeted Throughout the Entire Matchup
Hamlin cheered the Bills on from his hospital bed at University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Sunday. After tight end Dawson Know threw up the No. 3 after his touchdown, Hamlin tweeted, “I love you too 🏾 @dawson_knox.”
Following Hines’ second kickoff return touchdown, Hamlin tweeted, “🔓🔓🔓 HINES FREE 🔓🔓🔓,” and after Stefon Diggs caught a 49-yard touchdown pass, “14. The biggest of the biggest. ❤️,” he wrote.
The 24-year-old gave a shout out to both Matt Milano and Edmunds following their clutch interceptions, and after the game was over, Hamlin announced his new initiative to give back to the medical professionals who helped save his life. 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!”