Super Bowl LII was packed with local connections, from Western New York natives on both teams to former Buffalo Bills players and coaches. Here’s a look at how they fared Sunday night:
• Offensive coordinator Frank Reich: The architect of the Greatest Comeback as a quarterback for the Bills finally has his first Super Bowl ring on his sixth chance. Reich's offense put up video-game like numbers, finishing with 538 total yards of offense. The Eagles were terrific on third down, going 10 of 16 (63 percent). They also converted two huge fourth downs, one on a trick play that involved tight end Trey Burton throwing a 1-yard touchdown ... to quarterback Nick Foles. This was Reich's masterpiece as an offensive coordinator.
• Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz: Bills fans remember Schwartz's 2014 defense fondly mainly because of its ability to pressure the opposing quarterback. Although Philadelphia registered only one sack, it was one of the biggest plays in the game when Brandon Graham stripped Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the fourth quarter and rookie Derek Barnett recovered the fumble. The Eagles hit Brady nine times. Outside of that, it was a struggle for the Philadelphia defense, which gave up a whopping 613 yards.
• S Corey Graham: The Buffalo native earned his second Super Bowl victory, finishing with eight tackles. On the final play of the game, Graham was right in the middle of the Eagles' defense as the Hail Mary attempt was batted down. Earlier in the game, Graham made a touchdown-saving tackle in the second quarter, but also blew a tackle on Patriots running back James White that led to a touchdown before halftime.
• CB Ronald Darby: The former Bills cornerback finished with four tackles and two passes defense, but otherwise had a tough night. He was in coverage on both of Rob Gronkowski’s touchdown receptions – a tough coverage assignment, to say the least – and also let a potential game-clinching interception go through his hands late.
• LB Nigel Bradham: The former Bills linebacker finished with seven tackles, third highest on the team, and one quarterback hit.
• DE Steven Means: The Buffalo native was inactive for the Eagles, as he was for all of Philadelphia’s three playoff games.
Note: Former Bills left tackle Jason Peters is on Philadelphia’s injured reserve list but did take part in the coin toss with the Eagles captains.
New England Patriots
• TE Rob Gronkowski: The Amherst native showed once again why he is one of the most unstoppable weapons in all of football, catching a team-high nine passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Cleared from the league’s concussion protocol just days before the game, Gronkowski again looked like one of the best tight ends of all time. His shining moment came on the Patriots’ first drive of the second half, when he was targeted five times, making four catches for 68 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown. That came after Gronkowski was held to just one catch for 9 yards in the first half. It’s never a bad idea to throw him the ball. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did just that on the final play of the game, but Gronkowski wasn’t quite able to haul in the Hail Mary. That was the only negative on his night.
• CB: Stephon Gilmore: The former Bills cornerback was outstanding, allowing just three catches (on six targets) for 19 yards, according to the analytics website Pro Football Focus. Gilmore did not start the game on Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, his former college teammate, but quickly took over that duty after a few big plays went against the Patriots. Gilmore finished with four tackles and two passes defensed.
• WR Chris Hogan: The former Bills receiver had a huge game, catching six passes for 128 yards and one touchdown, which came in the third quarter and pulled New England within three points.
• DT Alan Branch: He was inactive for the sixth straight game, dating back to a knee injury he suffered Dec. 11 against Miami. Reporters in Minnesota had a pretty good idea Branch was going to be inactive earlier in the day when they bumped into him in line at a Panda Express in the Mall of America.
• RB Mike Gillislee: New England’s former No. 1 running back at the start of the season was inactive. Gillislee has been out of the lineup for the Patriots since a Week 16 win over the Bills. He said during the week that he would be a game-time decision because of a knee injury, even though he was not listed on the final injury report.