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Bills win for Hamlin and eliminate Patriots from playoffs


Nyheim Hines ignited an emotionally charged atmosphere celebrating injured Bills safety Damar Hamlin by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, and Buffalo clinched the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed with a 35-23 win over the New England Patriots. The loss, coupled with Miami beating the New York Jets, eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs for the second time in three years. Buffalo will now host the division rival Dolphins in the wild-card round next Sunday. With the game in hand, Bills players held up three fingers in honor of Hamlin’s number with the crowd chanting “Hamlin! Hamlin!” in honor of the safety who is recovering in a Cincinnati hospital after going into cardiac arrest on Monday.

Players and fans across the NFL paid tribute to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Sunday, the first time most across the league resumed playing since his terrifying cardiac arrest during a game last week. Hamlin’s number “3” was on display everywhere across the league, outlined on 30-yard lines on fields, worn on special patches on the Bills uniforms and featured on jackets and sweatshirts and even on red hearts dangling from the tailgate tents outside the Bills home stadium.

Jason Sanders kicked a go-ahead 50-yard field goal with 18 seconds left and helped send the Miami Dolphins to their first playoff berth since 2016 after barely squeaking by the New York Jets 11-6. The Dolphins snapped a five-game losing streak and then had to wait a few minutes for Buffalo to defeat New England 35-23 to make their postseason appearance official. The Dolphins will play at Buffalo next Sunday. The Jets ended the season with six straight losses and finished a disappointing collapse for Robert Saleh’s squad. New York failed to score a touchdown in its final three games.

The Giants rested their key starters Sunday at Philadelphia to keep them healthy for an NFC playoff game next week against Minnesota. The Eagles beat the Giants 22-16. The final score was largely immaterial to New York on Sunday night. The Giants already secured the No. 6 seed in the NFC and just needed to get through the game to learn their playoff opponent. The Vikings beat the Giants 27-24 on a last-second field goal just two weeks ago.

Najee Harris ran for 84 yards and a touchdown and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 28-14 but were eliminated from the playoffs when Miami edged the New York Jets. The Steelers will have to settle for a 16th straight non-losing season under coach Mike Tomlin, fueled by a 7-2 finish. Pittsburgh’s ugly 2-6 start included an injury to star linebacker T.J. Watt and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s ascension to the starting job. The Browns finished 7-10, including 3-3 with quarterback Deshaun Watson. This is the 17th time since Cleveland rejoined the NFL in 1999 that the Browns have lost at least 10 games.

The NFL’s Week 18 saved its best drama for the final game of the weekend. The Detroit Lions rallied to beat Green Bay 20-16 on Sunday night to deny quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers a spot in the postseason. The Lions were eliminated from playoff contention earlier Sunday when the Seahawks beat the Rams, but played the role of the spoiler. Instead of the Packers, it’s the Seahawks who will be the No. 7 seed in the NFC. They’ll travel to face division rival San Francisco in next weekend’s wild-card round.

Aaron Rodgers threw a late interception on the final pass of what might be his last game, and the Green Bay Packers lost 20-16 to the Detroit Lions to miss the playoffs. After winning four straight games and receiving plenty of help from other teams, the Packers had control of their postseason fate heading into the final game of the NFL regular season. But they fell short against the Lions, who had been eliminated from the playoffs earlier Sunday. Seattle instead earned the NFC’s final playoff spot and will play at San Francisco in the opening round. The Packers missed the playoffs for the first time in Matt LaFleur’s four seasons as coach.

Joe Mixon and the Cincinnati Bengals are still flipping out over the NFL’s plan to determine home-field advantage in the playoffs. Mixon referenced the NFL’s decision to use a coin flip as a tiebreaker Sunday by celebrating a 1-yard touchdown run against the Baltimore Ravens by taking a coin out of his glove and flicking it. He and several teammates then kicked it on the ground. The league decided to add a coin flip to settle some potential playoff scenarios after Monday night’s game between the Bengals and Buffalo Bills was declared a no-contest after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field.

Tom Brady broke his own NFL mark for most completions in a season, quickly gaining the needed nine connections in Tampa Bay’s 30-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He played into the second quarter and then was taken out to avoid injury with the playoffs next week. The loss dropped the NFC South champion Buccaneers to 8-9, the first time a team quarterbacked by Brady has finished a season below .500. Brady had a record 485 completions with the Buccaneers in 2021, and the 45-year-old began the day only nine away from a new mark.

Lovie Smith has been fired as coach of the Houston Texans on Sunday night after just one season where the team went 3-13-1. It’s the second straight season in which the Texans have fired a coach after just one year. They parted ways with David Culley last January after he went 4-13 in his only season.

Meanwhile, eleven teams had clinched playoff berths entering Week 18: the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the NFC, and the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks joined the field this weekend.

The playoffs are scheduled to begin Saturday, with the first two of six first-round games. Here is the full schedule for the first round (all times Eastern):

No. 2 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 7 Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Fox

No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

No. 2 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 7 Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

No. 3 Minnesota Vikings vs. No. 6 New York Giants, Sunday, 4:30 p.m., Fox

No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals vs. No. 6 Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. No. 5 Dallas Cowboys, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ABC/ESPN


Royce O’Neale’s putback with 3.2 seconds left put Brooklyn to stay, and the Nets defeated the Miami Heat 102-101 on Sunday night in a game where Kevin Durant left early with a right knee injury. Kyrie Irving scored 29 to lead the Nets, who have now won 18 of their last 20 — after winning only nine of their first 20 games. Durant had 17 before departing and Seth Curry scored 14 for Brooklyn. Nic Claxton had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets. Jimmy Butler scored 26 for Miami, which got 24 from Tyler Herro. Butler missed a contested shot at the rim on the game’s final play.

College Football Playoff championship

No. 1 Georgia attempts to become the first school to win back-to-back College Football Playoff championships when it faces No. 3 TCU. The Horned Frogs are trying to win their first national title since 1938 and become the first Big 12 team with a championship since Texas in 2005. Both teams have quarterbacks who were Heisman Trophy finalists. Georgia's Stetson Bennett has accounted for 31 touchdown and is approaching 4,000 yards passing. TCU's Max Duggan has 40 total touchdowns. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

PGA Tour

Jon Rahm pulled off a stunner to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions after trailing by seven shots. Equally shocking was the collapse by Collin Morikawa that made it all possible. Rahm ran off three birdies and an eagle in a four-hole stretch and shot 63. Morikawa went 67 holes without a bogey to start the tournament at Kapalua. He then made three in a row. Morikawa tied a PGA Tour record for losing the largest 54-hole lead. He led by six going into the final round. Rahm has won three of his last five starts worldwide.


Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks says he has non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hendriks announced Sunday on Instagram that he was diagnosed in recent days. The three-time All-Star was scheduled to begin treatment on Monday. Hendriks says he is “confident” he will “make a full recovery and be back on the mound as soon as possible.” The five-year survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 73.8%, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some forms are aggressive while others are slow growing. General manager Rick Hahn says in a statement the White Sox don’t expect to have an update on Hendriks’ status prior to opening day.

David Guistina is the host of Capital Connection, Legislative Gazette, and Morning Edition and the producer of the Media Project on WAMC.