Hamlin watches from hospital as Bills eliminate Patriots with emotional win

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Damar Hamlin watched on from hospital as the Buffalo Bills claimed an emotionally charged 35-23 win over the New England Patriots in their first game since his cardiac arrest.

Hamlin remains in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after collapsing following a collision with Tee Higgins in the Bills' game with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday. That game will not be resumed.

The safety has shown continued signs of improvement and was able to speak to his team-mates via videocall in the build-up to the game.

He was a keen viewer as, after pre-game shows of support for Hamlin that included Buffalo emerging from the tunnel and huddling at midfield, the Bills made an extraordinary start.

Nyheim Hines returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. New England responded well, and touchdown throws from Mac Jones to Jakobi Meyers and DeVante Parker, sandwiched by a Dawson Knox touchdown, sent the teams into half-time tied at 14-14.

New England, needing only to win to qualify for the postseason, took the lead with a Nick Folk field goal after a Devin Singletary fumble.

However, Hines struck again, taking the subsequent kickoff back 101 yards, becoming the first player since Leon Washington in 2010 to return two kickoffs for a touchdown in the same game.

A stunning 42-yard throw on the move from Josh Allen to John Brown stretched the Bills' lead and, though Parker responded for New England, another pinpoint deep ball from Allen to Stefon Diggs proved the decisive blow, with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions from Jones ending the Patriots' hopes.

It means the Bills, following agreed changes to the AFC playoffs following the cancellation of their game with the Bengals, will not have to play a postseason road game. As the second seed, they have home-field advantage for the first two rounds and, should they face the one seed Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, it will be held at a neutral site.

That first home game will be against the Miami Dolphins, who took advantage of the Patriots' loss by squeaking by the New York Jets 11-6 to clinch a playoff spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the Cleveland Browns 28-14, were also eliminated.

Bengals avoid coin flip

The Bengals also prevailed in their first game since Monday's traumatic scenes, beating the Baltimore Ravens 27-16. Despite being the AFC North champions, the Bengals would not have been guaranteed a home game against the Ravens in the playoffs had they lost this second regular-season meeting, with the venue being decided by a coin flip as part of the agreed changes.

It rarely looked as if they would face such a fate in a game Cincinnati controlled throughout. The Bengals' win means they will reunite with Baltimore in the playoffs next week, and it will be in Cincinnati. The Bengals had made no secret of their displeasure at the coin flip decision, and running back Joe Mixon pretended to flip a coin after scoring Cincinnati's first touchdown.

Texans win, but lose number one pick

The Houston Texans would have locked up the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but their current crop of players showed no regard for the long-term future in a thrilling finale.

On fourth down and 20 in the last-chance saloon, quarterback Davis Mills heaved a 28-yard touchdown to Jordan Akins, who then caught a two-point conversion to seal a 32-31 win what could be head coach Lovie Smith's final game. The victory saw the number one pick go to Smith's former team, the Chicago Bears, who lost at home to the Minnesota Vikings.