Zac Taylor went into Monday Night Football anticipating coaching one of the biggest games of his career. The Bengals and Bills were both hot coming into the game, and many on ESPN pregame were calling it the game of the year. The game started off well for both sides, with Cincinnati driving down for a touchdown on their opening drive and Buffalo answering with a chip shot field goal. Joe Burrow looked calm, cool, and collected as he operated the Bengals’ offense against one of the top defenses in the league, and it looked like we were in for a fantastic game. And then, in the blink of an eye, none of it mattered.
Damar Hamlin, the 24-year-old safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field after making a routine tackle on Bengals’ wide receiver Tee Higgins. The play looked innocuous but ended up being perhaps the most important play in the past fifty years of the National Football League. Many speculate that Hamlin suffered from a rare injury called commotio cordis, where he suffered a blow to the chest at just the wrong time in his cardiac cycle, leading to cardiac arrest. According to the Bills’ organization, his heartbeat stopped and was restored on the field before being transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. For a brief moment, football froze as first responders rushed to save Hamlin’s life.
Zac Taylor And Cincinnati Leadership Took Control
Immediately after Hamlin was taken off the field, ESPN reported that the officials had given both teams five minutes to warm up and continue the game. While the league denied this report, cameras showed footage of Burrow warming up, confirming that they were getting ready to go. However, Zac Taylor did the right thing in a spot he never thought he would be in. Per Albert Breer, Taylor made the call, after seeing the looks on the faces of the Bills’ players and coaches, to go to the other sideline and check on Sean McDermott and his team. After the conversation he and McDermott had, he called off the warm-up, and both teams went into their respective locker rooms.
As both teams went to the locker room, the game was officially suspended until further notice. It seemed doubtful that the game would resume that night, but that decision may not have been made if not for the leadership shown by Coach Taylor. He visited the Bills’ locker room shortly after the teams left the field to check on McDermott and see how the team wanted to proceed. Later, after the game had been called, Taylor was seen at the hospital going to support Hamlin. Nobody asked or told Taylor to do this; he decided at that moment that being a head coach meant being a leader of men, and he did the right thing every step of the way.
Taylor wasn’t the only member of the Bengals to step up in a big spot. Joe Burrow was seen consoling Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen in what was the darkest moment of either of their careers. Later, it was reported that Burrow, center Ted Karras, and defensive tackle DJ Reader all visited the Bills’ locker room to check in on how the team was doing. Tee Higgins, the player who was most directly involved in the play, has apparently been extremely supportive and has reached out multiple times. Cincinnati has shown that they are a high-class organization from top to bottom throughout this ordeal, and they deserve a lot of respect for handling an impossible situation.
My two favorite QB’s Joe Burrow and Josh Allen in one of the scariest moments of their young lives. Prayers for Damar Hamlin. pic.twitter.com/hj1IFtKO57 — ☠️Scotty☠️ (@Scotty29222536) January 3, 2023
The City Of Cincinnati Stepped Up In A Big Way
By all accounts, the city was absolutely electric going into the game. You could tell in the nine minutes of game time that did occur the stadium was rocking, and the Bills even had to use a timeout on offense because of the crowd noise. Then, in moments, the whole stadium was silent. People at the game had no idea what was happening, but they knew that something was wrong. Everybody in the stadium was shocked, expecting Hamlin to get to his feet at some point but never doing so. First responders, however, handled the situation exceptionally well, resuscitating Hamlin on the field and getting him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
This is what an attendee at the Bills-Bengals game reported. Praying for Hamlin 💙 pic.twitter.com/ylXxz18IwC — imam (@floofnoodles) January 3, 2023
First and foremost, the people who attended to Damar are the real heroes in this situation. Their quick action saved the young man’s life at that moment, and while he is still in critical condition as of the writing of this article, recent updates from his family have been positive. Bengals’ and Bills’ fans gathered outside the hospital to pray for Damar, and an outpouring of support from around the country has come in, both in the form of prayers and donations to Hamlin’s charity. The biggest game of the year ended in a moment that was much bigger than any football game, but the way the sports community has come together for Damar has been inspiring.