ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — With Damar Hamlin on everyone’s mind and his number on the chest of all his teammates, the Bills ushered in an emotional 35-23 victory over the Patriots to secure the second seed in the AFC.
The win knocked New England out of the playoffs. Miami earned the 7th and final playoff spot and will travel to Orchard Park in the Wild Card round next week. The game will be played on Sunday at 1:00 and can be seen locally in Rochester on WROC.
Nyheim Hines returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, sending Highmark Stadium into a frenzy before either offense took the field. It was the team’s first kickoff return touchdown since 2019.
They didn’t have to wait long to get another. Trailing 17-14 midway through the third quarter, Hines returned a kickoff 101 yards for another touchdown. It was the first time since 2010 a player had returned two kickoffs for a touchdown in the same game.
Tre’Davious White recorded his first interception since returning from his ACL tear, coming at a big moment as the Patriots were approaching the red zone tied at 14 early in the third quarter
White said the defensive backs room is incredibly connected. They hang out off the field and when they do, they rarely talk football. So that would be the group most affected by what happened to Damar Hamlin on Monday night.
In fact, White said this week has been an expletive-show. And he was very raw about how Hamlin’s collapse and the rest of the week have affected him.
“It’s just something that I can’t unsee. Every time I close my eyes it replays,” said White. “I try watching TV and every time the TV goes on commercial, that’s the only thing that comes to my mind. Just the vision of that. So it’s been a tough week. It’s been a tough week for our whole team but it’s not about us right now, it’s about Damar and his family, man.”
“We’re human. We’re not superstars and all those things,” said Dean Marlowe, who started in Hamlin’s place on Sunday. “We just feel like at a point in time, we’re very sensitive to what went down. And for it to be a part of my family is a little uncomfortable. But we’re built for times, this team is built for times like that. And all we think about is picking one another up and playing for each other.”
Josh Allen threw three touchdowns in the game. The first went to Dawson Knox, giving Buffalo their first offensive touchdown and a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. The second went to John Brown, the wideout’s first catch with the Bills since the 2020 season. After the play, he gave the ball to assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington, who administered CPR to Hamlin on Monday night.
His final went to Stefon Diggs, a 49-yard bomb that gave the Bills a 35-23 lead where the game would finish up.
“When you have great teammates and you have guys that you can lean on, it just makes everything easier,” said left tackle Dion Dawkins. “Guys like Mitch and our entire locker room. We have guys that we can lean on and depend on that can just keep us up.”
Matt Milano snagged a pick of his own, saving the Bills from a potential collapse. The Patriots punted the ball away down 35-23 midway through the fourth quarter, when the ball bounced around the turf and hit Taiwan Jones’ leg, which was recovered by New England. The Patriots got to the red zone, but on 3rd and 19, Mac Jones’ pass was tipped and picked off by Milano. Tremaine Edmunds also got in on the fun, intercepting Jones to seal the game.
“Hopefully, we never have to go through this again,” said White. “But Damar is, he’s one of the most resilient, honest, and pure people that I’ve met. Every time I come in a meeting he goes, ‘T-Weezy!’ I can’t wait to hear his voice.”
White said that Hamlin texted the defensive backs at 2:30 in the morning before Sunday’s game telling them I’m sorry to put you all through this. White said for him to be thinking about us after all he’s been through, I just want to hug the “bleep” out of him.
The Bills will finish the regular season with a 13-3 record, the same record they finished the 2020 season with.
The Dolphins defeated the Jets 11-6 with third-stringer Skylar Thompson leading Miami to victory. Tua Tagovailoa is in the concussion protocol and Teddy Bridgewater missed the game with a hand injury.
The Bills and Dolphins split the regular season series, with Miami winning 21-19 in Week 3 and the Bills getting revenge with a 32-29 victory in Week 15. Both teams won at home.
The win also guaranteed that the Bills will never play a true road game for the rest of the playoffs. The Bills would host the first two rounds of the playoffs if they were to win against the Dolphins. If the Bills make the AFC Championship, they would either host against a lower seed or play the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs at a neutral site.