In the final game of the regular season, the Buffalo Bills clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs with their 35-23 win over the New England Patriots. The Bills (13-3) came into the game with the mindset of "playing for Damar Hamlin," and two kickoff return touchdowns from RB Nyheim Hines, three receiving touchdowns, and three second-half interceptions later, they won for No. 3.
The three receiving touchdowns came from WR Stefon Diggs, WR John Brown, and TE Dawson Knox. As for the juice on the defensive side of the ball, CB Tre'Davious White, LB Matt Milano, and LB Tremaine Edmunds each snagged an interception.
QB Josh Allen went 19 for 31 for 254 passing yards, and he spread the ball to eight different players.
Hines' first TD of the day made for a storybook opening to Sunday's AFC East matchup. The RB found the end zone after a 96-yard sprint down the field. Hines, along with a PAT from K Tyler Bass, put the Bills on the board just 14 seconds into the game.
The Patriots looked to respond on their first drive of the game, but DE Greg Rousseau sacked QB Mac Jones and forced New England to go 3-and-out. But before the first quarter expired, Jones found WR Jakobi Meyers in the end zone and tied the game at 7 with 5:45 left on the clock.
But the Bills stole the momentum from New England and opened up the second quarter with a TE Dawson Knox TD. With an abundance of patience, QB Josh Allen bought time in the pocket and found Knox in the end zone to regain the lead, 14-7, just 45 seconds into the quarter.
In what was a back-and-forth first half, Jones responded again and tied the game at 14 on a two-yard TD pass to Patriots WR DeVante Parker with 3:45 left. The Bills' run game started to move the chains down in hopes of breaking the tie before the half expired. But with less than 30 seconds left, LB Matthew Judon got a hand on Allen's throwing arm as he was releasing the ball and the QB was intercepted by CB Devin McCourty.
While there wasn't enough time left for the Patriots to take advantage of that interception, they attempted to break through when they started the second half with the ball. But just as they were inching towards their first lead of the game, CB Tre'Davious White intercepted Jones at the 2-yard line.
The Bills got the ball back at their own two-yard line, but CB Jonathan Jones forced RB Devin Singletary to fumble just two plays later.
About halfway through the third quarter, the Patriots got their first and last lead of the game on a 24-yard field goal from Nick Folk - but Hines was quick to strike again. With his second jaw-dropping kickoff return of the day, the RB erased the Patriots' lead with a 101-yard KOR touchdown and the Bills regained the lead, 21-17, with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
Just like old times, Allen connected with John Brown to further extend the Bills' lead to 28-17 on a 42-yard TD catch to wrap up scoring for the third quarter.
The Bills found a way to close out the game in the final 15 minutes. Following a 49-yard TD from Diggs, linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds came up with interceptions less than three minutes apart from one another to secure the 35-23 victory and lock in the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
The Bills will host the Miami Dolphins in next weekend's Super Wildcard Weekend.
More Stats and Highlights to Know
- RB Nyheim Hines tallies the Bills first kickoff return TD since 2019. This kickoff return marks the Bills second time in team history with a KOR TD on the opening kickoff.
- With a sack on QB Mac Jones, Greg Rousseau joins Von Miller with 8.0 sacks, marking the first time since 2014 the Bills have had multiple players tally 8.0+ sacks in a single season
- WR Stefon Diggs is up to 105 catches this season, which marks the second-most in team history. He holds the top three reception seasons in team history with 127 (2020), 105 (2022), and 103 (2021).
- TE Dawson Knox has now tied Jay Riemersma (20) for the second-most receiving touchdowns in a career by a Bills TE.
- CB Tre'Davious White tallies his first interception of the season. This marked White's first interception since November 14, 2021.
- Hines' second kickoff return TD marks the first time since 2010 that a player has returned two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single game. He is the 11th player in league history to achieve this feat and the first Bill to ever do it.
- WR John Brown's 42-yard TD marks his first TD since the 2020 season with the Bills.
- Diggs's 49-yard TD pass marked the 11th receiving touchdown of the season which ties the team record.
- QB Josh Allen threw for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 106.1. Allen has thrown for 4,000+ yards and rushed for 750+ yards in consecutive seasons and is the only player to ever do so.
- LB Tremaine Edmunds recorded 7 tackles, bringing his season total to 102. Edmunds is the first Bill with 100+ tackles in 5 straight seasons since London Fletcher in 2002-06.
- Hines is the first player in NFL history to have a game with two punt-return touchdowns and a game with two kickoff-return touchdowns in his career.
- Hines' 235 kickoff return yards set a new single-game franchise record