Jan. 8 (Reuters) – The NFL regular season reached an emotional climax on Sunday as the Buffalo Bills, inspired by Dummer Hamlin, who is recovering from cardiac arrest during last week’s game, defeated the New England Patriots 35-23. Reached.
With 19 teams still in the postseason hunt and entering the final weekend, there was no shortage of gridiron suspense across the country.
But the emotional epicenter was Orchard Park, New York, and the blazing Highmark Stadium. The Bills and their fans led a league-wide tribute in support of his 24-year-old safety Hamlin, who went down after tackling Cincinnati. Bengals on January 2nd.
With his heart recovered on the field, Hamlin spent most of the week on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of a Cincinnati hospital, and his battle captivated the sports world.
Announcements were made at all stadiums before kickoff acknowledging Hamlin and first responders and medical workers.
Players donned hats and warm-up gear emblazoned with Hamlin’s number 3 jerseys, while fans displayed hand-made signs of love and prayers.
However, the Bills paid Hamlin the highest praise and used their sentiments to secure the win and the AFC second seed.
With the stadium already crackling with energy, the game got off to an explosive start, with Nyheim Hines returning the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, sending the sold-out crowd into a frenzy.
Hines returned another kickoff for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving the Bills a 21-17 lead and never ending the Patriots’ chances of reaching the playoffs.
“We just wanted to come out and play free and play loose and play for (Dummer),” said Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who threw three touchdown passes. “The first kickoff couldn’t have been better scripted. It was pretty emotional…it was mental.”
Buffalo will host the Miami Dolphins returning to the postseason for the first time in six years after Jason Sanders kicked three fields, including a 50-yarder with 18 seconds left, in an 11-6 win over the New York Jets. .
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday to earn the No. 1 seed and first round bye.
Cincinnati won the AFC’s No. 3 seed and beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-16 to set up a wild-card rematch between North Division rivals next week.
Another AFC wildcard will be the Los Angeles Chargers, who closed out the regular season with a 31-28 loss to the Denver Broncos, and the South Division champion Jacksonville Jaguars at home.
In the NFC, quarterback Jalen Hurts returned from injury to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a 22-16 win over the New York Giants, earning a franchise-record 14 wins and the No. 1 seed.
Despite the loss, the Giants qualified for the postseason and advanced to the wild card to face the Minnesota Vikings.
The Dallas Cowboys also advanced to the playoffs after losing 26-6 to the Washington Commanders.
The Cowboys will face NFC South Division champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost 30-17 to the Atlanta Falcons.
The only opponent yet to be decided is whether they will face the second-seeded San Francisco 49ers heading into the postseason on a 10-game winning streak after beating the Arizona Cardinals 38-13.
San Francisco will face either the Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks kept their playoff hopes alive when Jason Myers nailed a 32-yard field goal to clinch a 19–16 overtime win against the Los Angeles Rams.
If the Lions can beat the Packers, Green Bay can grab the last berth with a win while the Seahawks claim a spot.
Reporting by Steve Keating of Toronto.Editing by Jerry Doyle
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