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Bills RB Nyheim Hines returns opening kickoff 96 yards for stunning TD in win over Patriots

The Buffalo Bills took the first play Sunday to the house -- and didn't stop there.

Nyheim Hines, whom the Bills acquired at November's trade deadline, took the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead in Sunday's 35-23 win over the Patriots. Hines wasn't done, as he returned a second kickoff for a score in the second half, a 101-yard return that flipped a Bills deficit to a lead and eventually to a victory.

The win clinched the AFC's No. 2 seed for the Bills and a Super Wild Card Weekend matchup against the rival Dolphins, who secured the No. 7 seed with a win over the Jets and the Pats' loss.

Hines became the 11th player in NFL history with two kickoff return TDs in the same game and the first since the Seahawks' Leon Washington in Week 3, 2010, per NFL Research.

The stunning opening TD was the first play for the Bills since safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during last Monday's game. Hamlin, who was watching the game from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, took to Twitter to celebrate immediately after the play.

"I'm speechless," Hines said after the game. "I'm so thankful it was me to bring that juice, but it's way bigger than me. That's what I always thought about, and that's what I thought all day. It's just bigger than me and bigger than those 10 guys who did a great job of blocking for me."

Hines' second-half score inspired Hamlin to celebrate again.

Hines' first return was a chill-inducing moment as the Buffalo organization spent the week worrying for the health and wellbeing of their teammate following the harrowing events of Monday night.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen said it will be a play he will never forget.

"I can't remember a play that touched me like that, I don't think in my life. It's probably No. 1," Allen told reporters after the game.

Bills players all wore No. 3 patches during Sunday's game in honor of Hamlin, who received the game ball and broke the team down in the postgame locker room.

The No. 3 appeared in multiple ways throughout the game. Allen threw three TDs. The defense had three interceptions. Hines' return was the team's first in three years and three months.

"God is good. He really is. I just urge everybody to keep praying for [Hamlin]," Allen told CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson after the game. "He's in good spirits. Hopefully he got to watch the game. I just hope he can feel the love and the emotion that everybody here in this stadium had for him. One of the more surreal stadium feelings I've ever been in. It was special."

Buffalo announced on Saturday that Hamlin remains in critical condition, but is making continued progress, per physicians at UCMC, where Hamlin has been under care since Monday night. The defensive back "continues to breathe on his own and his neurological function is excellent," and on Friday he virtually addressed the team during a meeting.

The Bills got back to work Sunday honoring Hamlin during the pregame ceremonies. They then started the game with an opening script even Hollywood couldn't have written.

"If you want the truth, it was spiritual," Allen said. "It really was. Bone-chilling. It was special."

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