Bills end Patriots season, clinch No. 2 seeds

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The Bills ended an emotionally draining week with a win.

Nyheim Hines returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and Josh Allen threw three touchdown passes in front of a home crowd that was celebrating Damar Hamlin’s recovery along with their team. The 35-23 win means the Bills will be hosting the Dolphins next week as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and they’ll be in position to play another home game in the divisional round.

If they win those games and the Chiefs also advance to the conference title game, the game will be played at a neutral site to be determined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

After pregame ceremonies honoring first responders and the Bills medical staff for their work saving Hamlin’s life last Monday night, Hines electrified the crowd with a 96-yard return of the opening kickoff. The Patriots were able to answer back, however, and they went into halftime tied at 14.

The Patriots took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter, but Hines took the ensuing kick 101 yards for another score. He’s the 11th player in history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.

A John Brown touchdown catch extended the Buffalo lead, but the Patriots drew back within 28-23 on DeVante Parker’s second touchdown catch of the game. Avoiding Hines led to the ensuing kickoff going out of bounds and Allen put the final points on the board with a remarkable 49-yard pass across the field to Stefon Diggs in the end zone.

Allen was 19-of-31 for 251 yards and threw an interception. Devin Singletary also lost a fumble and those miscues helped keep the game close. Mac Jones wound up throwing three interceptions — two came as they were trying to come back after Diggs’ touchdown — but the Patriots offense had one of its better days of a frustrating season.

The special teams breakdowns proved too costly, however, and the Patriots are out of the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.

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