‘An unbelievable miracle’: Bengals host Bills, Hamlin for first time since January collapse on field

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — The significance of the Cincinnati Bengals’ matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night goes beyond the hype surrounding a meeting of two of the teams expected to contend for the AFC title this season.

Cincinnati is hosting the Bills for the first time since Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin’s near-death collapse on the field at Paycor Stadium, almost nine months ago, in another highly touted matchup in Week 17 of the 2022 season.

The Bengals traveled to play the Bills in a divisional round playoff game three weeks after Hamlin needed resuscitated and hospitalized, but the meeting Sunday, with Hamlin potentially back on the field, is sure to bring some eerie emotions. Hamlin made his first and only appearance since Jan. 2 on Oct. 1 in the Bills’ 48-20 win over Miami, a significant step in his comeback. He’s been inactive the other six games.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the focus will remain on the game, but the incident nine months ago certainly will be in the back of everybody’s minds.

“I think just what we all saw and how things have turned out, positively, back in a jersey, back at their practices, back at their plan is, I don’t think anybody saw that coming, and so that’s just an unbelievable miracle that it’s played out that way. I know that everybody’s thankful for that. It was great to see communities come together for a really positive benefit, and it’s turned into a lot of good. I think that’s what everybody’s thankful for.”

Cincinnati and Buffalo didn’t finish that Jan. 2 game, which was halted in the first quarter, but the Bengals collected a dominant 27-10 win on the road in the playoffs to make it back to the AFC Championship for a second straight year. Now they are looking to repeat that effort in order to collect their first in-conference win of the season and extend a three-game winning streak.

Buffalo (5-3) currently is ranked fifth in the AFC playoff picture, while Cincinnati (4-3) is ninth. The Bills have one of the best offenses and defenses in the league, ranking above the Bengals in almost every major category. Most notably, the Bills are third in scoring defense (17.0 points per game), and they rank fourth in points scored per game (27.8) and passing yards per game (263).

Buffalo is 14th in rushing yards per game (113), 10th in passing yards allowed per game (204) and 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game (122).

Josh Allen has the fifth-most passing yards in the league with 2,165 yards, and he’s third in passing touchdowns with 17. He leads the league in passing percentage (71.7 percent) but also has the second most interceptions with eight.

Stefon Diggs remains Allen’s top receiver with 748 yards and six touchdowns on 64 catches; however, his best tight end weapon, 2022 Pro Bowler Dawson Knox, is on injured reserve following wrist surgery. James Cook leads the running game with 486 yards and one touchdown on 102 carries.

Defensively, Buffalo accounts for the second-most sacks in the NFL with 28 but have recently lost some of its top contributors. Linebacker Matt Milano, an All-Pro and Pro Bowl pick last year, is out indefinitely after suffering a leg injury that required surgery in Week 5 when defensive lineman DaQuan Jones also went down with a shoulder injury. He underwent pectoral surgery and is out indefinitely.

Cornerback Tre’Davious White suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear in Week 4.

Defensive end Leonard Floyd leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits, and Ed Oliver and A.J. Epenesa each have 5.0 sacks. Linebacker Terrel Bernard accounts for a team-leading 76 tackles. Linebacker Von Miller has only played 27 percent of his team’s defensive snaps and doesn’t have a sack.

Buffalo is coming off a 24-18 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 26 and had an extra few days to prepare following their Thursday Night game. The Bills’ losses this season came against the New York Jets in overtime, the Patriots and the Jaguars.


Bills at Bengals, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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