Nyheim Hines’ kickoff return TD connected to Damar Hamlin

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—You want the truth about the coin flip that set in motion the script so unlikely that Spielberg would have found it far-fetched? If the Bills had won the toss, Sean McDermott would have deferred.

The Bills would have kicked off.

“I’m glad they lost this one,” McDermott told me.

I should say so. Someday, and not too long from now, this generation’s “Brian’s Song” (look it up, kids), will be a movie based on the life and near-death of Damar Hamlin. There will be a centerpiece moment based in an old stadium in western New York. John David Washington will play Nyheim Hines, and Michael B. Jordan will be Damar Hamlin. Sean McDermott? Maybe Jude Law. There won’t be any problem finding extras in Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and Lackawanna for the crowd scenes.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. The Patriots actually won the toss at Highmark Stadium Sunday afternoon, and as Bill Belichick loves deferring and taking the ball to start the second half, New England deferred.

When Nick Folk kicked the ball high into the air, headed for Nyheim Hines inside the five-yard line, Hines had a lot to think about. He thought about Hamlin, foremost. Nine weeks ago, Hines was the new guy, traded from the Colts to Buffalo to be a return specialist and backup back. Hamlin, a stranger to Hines, came up to him on his first day in the building and introduced himself. Every day that first week, Hamlin would stop and talk to Hines, the new kid in school, and he started telling Hines he’d break a long one soon. “You’re gonna take one,” Hamlin told him. “I can feel it.” Every day at practice, Hamlin would say something about a big return.

“He would say, ‘Hashtag free Hines!’” Hines said late Sunday afternoon. They’d say that silly little thing to each other almost every day, Hamlin reminding the new kid not only that he could take a kick to the house, but he would do it.

So the ball was coming from Folk, and Hines thought for a millisecond about Hamlin, watching in his Cincinnati hospital room 425 miles to the southwest, and he said to himself, “All right, Nyheim, let’s give ‘em something to cheer about.”

Said Hines: “Our team, we had Damar’s wings on our backs today.”

Hines certainly did. He ran untouched for 96 yards on the opening kickoff, fulfilling something Hamlin foresaw. Touchdown. Mayhem in the rebuilt place that 30 years ago this week housed another miracle: the Bills’ comeback from 32 points down to beat Houston in the Frank Reich Wild Card game. Hines’ touchdown came at 1:03 p.m.

From Hamlin’s Twitter feed, at 1:06 p.m: “OMFG!!!!!!!!!”

“Flabbergasted,” Hines said later.

“Trying to manage the game is my number one job,” McDermott said. “But this week, I thought to myself, ‘How special would it be if we took the opening kickoff back?’”

Then Hines did it again, returning one 101 yards for a score in the third quarter. Now the absurdity of the opening kickoff was doubled. The 70,753 in the place, and millions watching to see if the Bills could give Hamlin a consistent ear-to-ear grin in his University of Cincinnati Medical Center room, knew it was a game, and returner, they’d never forget. No one in the NFL had returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in a game since 2010.

“I’m the new guy here,” Hines said, “but hopefully I had a little impact on something that’s way bigger than myself.”

We’ll let Netflix be the judge of that.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

2023 NFL Playoffs AFC, NFC Championship Round Schedule: Dates, start times, how to watch/live stream info for today’s games

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The 2023 NFL Playoffs have been filled with nothing short of excitement! The action continues this week with the Championship Round on Sunday, January 29. First, at 3:00 PM ET Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will head to Lincoln Financial Field to take on Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Then at 6:30 PM ET Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

See below for the full AFC, NFC Championship Round schedule as well as additional information on how to watch each game.

Click here for the full 2023 NFL Playoffs Schedule

Conference Championship Round Schedule:

Sunday, January 29

NFC Championship Game:

San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles – 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox

  • Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

AFC Championship Game:

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs – 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS

  • Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri

RELATED: Brock Purdy, Jalen Hurts met in a 2019 college football classic


2023 Divisional Round Scores and Recap:

Jaguars (4) vs Chiefs (1)

Giants (6) vs Eagles (1)

Bengals (3) vs Bills (2

Cowboys (5) vs 49ers (2)


What 4 teams are in the NFL playoffs?

The San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Kansas City Chiefs.

Which teams have been eliminated from the 2023 NFL Playoffs?

The Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys have all been eliminated from the 2023 NFL playoffs.

RELATED: FMIA Divisional – Tales Of Outsmarting, Outplaying, And Outbuilding The Other Guys

NFL Super Bowl History:

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

What NFL games are on today? TV, kickoff, live stream for today’s AFC, NFC Championship games

NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Bills at Bears
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The 2023 NFL Playoff action continues this weekend with two Conference Championship games this afternoon. The action kicks off at 3:00 p.m. ET as Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will make the trek to Lincoln Financial Field to take on Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Then at 6:30 PM ET Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals will go head-to-head with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

See below for additional information on how to watch/live stream today’s games as well as the latest NFL playoff scores, schedules, and bracket.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs AFC, NFC Championship Round Schedule – Dates, start times, how to watch/live stream info for Sunday’s games

What NFL games are on today?

Sunday, January 29

NFC Championship Game:

San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles – 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox

  • Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs – What to know about SF QB Brock Purdy Ahead of NFC Championship game

AFC Championship Game:

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs – 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS

  • Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri

NFL Super Bowl History:

RELATED: FMIA Divisional – Tales Of Outsmarting, Outplaying, And Outbuilding The Other Guys


When is Super Bowl LVII?

  • Date: Sunday, February 12
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Network: Fox

2023 NFL Playoff Bracket:


2023 NFL Playoff Scores:

Wild Card Weekend Scores and Recap:

Seahawks (7) vs 49ers (2)

Chargers (5) vs Jaguars (4)

Dolphins (7) vs Bills (2) 

Giants (6) vs Vikings (3) 

Ravens (6) vs Bengals (3) 

Cowboys (5) vs Buccaneers (4) 

2023 Divisional Round Scores and Recap:

Jaguars (4) vs Chiefs (1)

Giants (6) vs Eagles (1)

Bengals (3) vs Bills (2

Cowboys (5) vs 49ers (2)

RELATED: See the 2022 NFL Sunday Night Football schedule here

 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Playoffs, and be