Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, six days after going into cardiac arrest during a game against the Bengals, is breathing on his own and appearing to progress even as he remains in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital. Though Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game in Buffalo wasn't available on local TV in his area, Hamlin was apparently able to find a way to watch his teammates win, as he or someone close to him live-tweeted the action on his account. (No word on if he had to use some janky website called like “redditNF1_streamzz.ru.”)
The 35-23 victory keeps the Bills from playing a true road game in the playoffs. It also ended New England's season. But it will forever be defined by an improbable pair of big plays from Buffalo kick returner Nyheim Hines. On the opening kickoff, in a moment seemingly custom-built for hyperbole like “it will forever be defined,” Hines took the ball at the five and simply swerved right to avoid a cloud of tacklers. Once he got out into open space, nobody could catch him, and the Bills had an immediate lead.
Somehow, he found a way to do it again—on a longer return and with a few more almost-tackles, after a Patriots field goal in the third quarter. Nobody in the league had returned two kicks for a touchdown through the entire year, let alone a single game.
Hines's work alone wasn't enough to seal things, as the game stayed close into the fourth. But a couple of long-range scores orchestrated by Josh Allen in the second half kept the Patriots in the rear-view. The wilder of the two was this deep throw to John Brown, who had to throw on the turbo boost to stretch out and reach the ball at the goal line.
Aside from the win, another important bit of good news for Hamlin is that he's also getting paid in full for this game. Hamlin's four-year, $3.64 million non-guaranteed deal is a split contract, and the terms say he'll be paid just 55 percent of his usual salary in weeks where he's not on the active roster. Cognizant of the fact that cutting a guy’s pay immediately after he almost died at work on national TV would lead to some awful PR, the Bills have said that they'll give him his missing $20,555.56 anyway. NFL EVP Troy Vincent has also implied that the league will get Hamlin something resembling a pension and health insurance if he can't come back to football, even though he's a two-year player in a league where you'd usually need three seasons to qualify for those benefits.