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MORSE: Week 18 Patriots at Bills Preview and Reaction to Hamlin’s Near Death Experience

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
January 6, 2023 at 6:00 am ET

MORSE: Week 18 Patriots at Bills Preview and Reaction to Hamlin’s Near Death Experience(PHOTO: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 5 minutes

You can’t start a Preview of the upcoming contest with the Buffalo Bills without addressing what happened on Monday Night. What appeared to be a routine play turned into a near-tragic episode that has thrown the NFL into a tizzy.  Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin was making a tackle on Bengals Tee Higgins.  Higgins became the hitter when he initiated contact with Hamlin, forcing his 6’4” 219 lb. frame into Hamlin’s chest.   This is in no way blaming Higgins, just the fact.  As we all have seen Hamlin initially stood up, only to collapse backward.  We learned much later that Hamlin was given life-saving CPR.  The broadcast went into a prolonged series of commercials expecting that we would be back playing minutes later.

We saw from the player’s reactions, players from both teams, that this was no ordinary injury.  As the ambulance was leaving the field the players from the Bills all circled around and prayed.  The pre-game broadcast crew fumbled their way around what was happening, not knowing what to say.  I actually felt bad for Suzy Kolber, as her two co-hosts left her out to dry with no significant input.

The NFL was completely caught off guard by how to handle the situation of a player being so injured that he stopped breathing.  This is not the 1st time it has happened.  In October of 1971, Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Chuck Hughes collapsed with 1:20 minutes left in the game, suffering a fatal heart attack.  The league made the teams finish the game before a stunned crowd in Detroit.

That was 51 years ago and the sport wasn’t broadcast into every home like it is now.  The officials wanted to restart the game and told the teams they had a 5 minute warmup period.   This is when Bengals head coach Zach Taylor took the initiative and walked across the field to speak with his counterpart head coach Greg McDermott.  They decided neither team was ready to resume the game. So they retired to their locker rooms.  After 50 minutes the NFL decided to suspend the game.

I give the NFL credit for having the emergency response team available and the equipment they needed to resuscitate Damar Hamlin.   However, they didn’t have protocols in place to handle the human emotion emitted by both teams.  In the end, the coaches took charge and the NFL did the right thing by suspending the game.

That leaves us with our current dilemma.  The league had already announced the Bills / Bengals game will not be resumed in week 18, the final week of the season.  The playoffs are scheduled to start in week 19, leading up to the championship game, and the Super Bowl.

Week 18 had several teams fighting for playoff spots including our New England Patriots.  Several scenarios exist for resolving this dilemma.   What if the Bills are not ready to play the Patriots on Sunday and decide to forfeit the game to concentrate on continuing the Bengals game which will determine the #2 seed?  Buffalo did not practice yesterday.

Even if they do play Sunday will the Bills play their regular players?  What kind of mental state will they be in?  If they let the Patriots in the playoffs, they likely are going to play them again in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Perhaps I’ll post another article on Saturday about the Bills when it becomes clearer how the league will handle this.

Injury Report

The Patriots got DaVante Parker back (no gain as far as I am concerned).   For a third straight season, Parker is the worst player in getting separation from DBs.  The Patriots are better off without him.  Jalen Mills practiced on Wednesday.  That’s good in case either of the Jones boys can’t go Sunday

Player Position Injury Wed Thu Fri Game Status
Marcus Jones CB Concussion DNP Unspecified
Jonnu Smith TE Concussion DNP Unspecified
Jonathan Jones CB Chest LP Unspecified
Jakobi Meyers WR Shoulder LP Unspecified
Jalen Mills CB Groin LP Unspecified
DeVante Parker WR Concussion LP Unspecified
Player Position Injury Wed Thu Fri Game Status
Josh Allen QB Ankle/Right Elbow FP Unspecified
Tyrel Dodson MLB Knee FP Unspecified
Taron Johnson CB Concussion LP Unspecified
Dawson Knox TE Hip FP Unspecified
Cam Lewis CB Forearm FP Unspecified
Matt Milano OLB Knee FP Unspecified
Jordan Phillips NT Shoulder FP Unspecified
Jordan Poyer FS Knee FP Unspecified


The Buffalo report shows full participation for all except Johnson.  As I understand it, Buffalo didn’t practice yesterday.


Jonathan Jones  

I didn’t give Jonathan Jones enough credit in my Observations article on Monday.  He had a tremendous game.  That interception on the sideline off Tyreek Hill was a thing of beauty.  Jones spun around and kept both feet in bounds.   That play turned the momentum back to the Patriots.   Holding Hill and Waddle to 4-55 and 3-52 respectively was quite the accomplishment.  Jones didn’t do it by himself.  He worked hard all week trying to get ready for the game and overcoming injuries to be ready.  Neither Hill nor Waddle found the endzone.  Jones is going to get a big payday next year as he enters Free Agency.  Here is one that hopes we pay our own talent before going out and signing the other mercenaries around the league.  He is the type of player you build a team around.

Mac Jones

He did not play his best game, yet when it counted made the throws downfield.  Granted he was playing against a weakened Dolphins secondary.  He picked up the blitz very well and tossed the ball downfield allowing his receivers to run under the ball.   Jones is not throwing the ball well and appears to be overhyped at the start of games.  This makes him inaccurate.  The opening pass was a simple swing pass.  Matt Patricia made a good call here, trying to give Jones a lollipop for his 1st attempt.  Jones rushed it and overthrew Stevenson.

The important thing is that Jones has only thrown one interception in his last eight games.  He is managing the game better and we didn’t see that puss face of a disgruntled and frustrated player.  Jones wants to win and he wants it bad.  I’d rather have his type of player than one that doesn’t care.


Michael Owenu

He is a favorite of the writers at Pro Football Focus.  In their article about who they would select for the All-Pro players, they selected Owenu as the 2nd team OG over all the OG in the NFC.  The 1st team was Joe Thuney and Joel Botonio.  Owenu beat out perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro Quentin Nelson of Indianapolis and Dallas OG Zach Martin.   That’s quite the company he is keeping.  I am glad they left him at RG and didn’t shuffle him around.  The Patriots have a player they can build an Offensive line around.


Draft Coverage Starting

I won’t be starting my draft coverage until after the Patriots season is complete.  That hasn’t stopped me from performing several Mock Drafts already.  My draft priorities are Safety, Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Running Back, Corner Back, and a developmental Defensive Lineman.  Let me know what you think the priorities should be.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Patriots vs. Bills Preview

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.

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    Michael P. McGrath
    Michael P. McGrath
    1 year ago

    Priorities: OL. That’s it. Regardless of PFF or anybody else’s opinions the OL is a mess and by far the primary reason for the offense being so poor. And by far I mean much greater than any coaching or QBing. If the OL sucks it does not matter what plays are called. if the OL sucks the QB can’t do squat. Re-signing J Jones would be nice as would be using K. Bourne more next year. But remember, we let go an “All World” CB last year. That wasn’t quite the end of the world people thought it would be… Read more »

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