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Super Bowl Notebook: Four stories surrounding Sunday’s big game

Posted Feb 3, 2018

Will Frank Reich finally get his first ring? When can you catch Jim Kelly’s CNN pregame special? What former Bills players are playing in the big game? All that and more with Super Bowl Sunday just over 24 hours away.


1. Will Frank Reich get his first Super Bowl ring?

He was a third-round pick by the Bills in 1985 and went on to four-straight Super Bowl appearances with the team from 1990-1993. Now, over 20 years later, Frank Reich will get his redemption at the big game.

Reich was Buffalo’s backup quarterback from 1985-1994. When you think of famous second-string QBs, he immediately comes to mind. Reich may’ve failed to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy during his nine-year career with the Bills, but he did accumulate four AFC Championships while in Western New York.

Reich’s made his rounds coaching in the NFL for a little over 10 years. From 2006-2011 he was with the Indianapolis Colts and served as an intern before getting promoted to an offensive assistant. He had a one-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals as their wide receivers coach in 2012. He spent three seasons with the San Diego Chargers from 2013-2015. In 2013, he was their quarterbacks. In 2014, he earned his first offensive coordinator job and held that position until 2015. Then in 2016 Reich landed with the Eagles as their OC and that’s been his job title to this day.

Reich was instrumental in helping Eagles quarterback, Carson Wentz, put up an MVP-like season before his campaign was cut short due to an ACL injury. Still, the Eagles have managed to soar to Super Bowl 52. Reich’s reasoning for the team’s success is their arsenal of weapons that they have on offense.

“Doug’s [Pederson] done a great job of calling the plays. Using all the weapons that we have to spread the ball around. That’s really been one of our mantras this year. We’re like a basketball team that doesn’t have a 30-point scorer. We have five guys who can score. Five guys that can beat you,” said Reich on the John Murphy Show. “I think it makes us hard to defend, because we’re going to spread the ball around. Even though Alshon Jeffery’s our all-star receiver and had a lot of touchdowns, it’s not like he had 100 catches, 1,500 yards. We spread it around. Same thing with our running backs. We have Legarrette [Blount], Jay [Ajayi], Corey Clement, some really good running backs. I mean, we’re spreading the ball around there as well.”

The Eagles have two Super Bowl appearances in franchise history and Reich has four appearances himself. Between the two, that’s six trips to the big game, but nothing to show for it. Reich’s confident this group can end those streaks and bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia for the first time.

“Everyone’s invested,” he said. “There’s unselfishness to this team that is contagious and that unselfishness is creating chemistry and a belief in one another that we have something special.”

2. Lorenzo, Donald and Michael Thomas discuss the key to dethrone New England

Believe it or not, but the Patriots are beatable. They lost a total of three times in 2017, with their most recent defeat being dealt by the Dolphins in Week 14.

As a person with first-hand experience, Miami’s safety Michael Thomas joined the first episode of Lorenzo’s Locker to discuss how to beat New England.

“What we did, and Jacksonville did the same thing, if you’re able to press those guys, press those receivers because they’re all pretty much like punt returners. If you let them run or give them space they can do damage,” said Thomas. “But for some reason, if you press them they’re not that effective. That’ll be Philly’s challenge. Can they press those guys and get hands on them?”

In that Monday Night Football game where the Dolphins dominated the Patriots, Tom Brady struggled. He was under duress all night and only completed 24-of-43 passes, for 233 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.

In seven Super Bowl appearances, Brady’s record is 5-2. In those two losses, applying pressure on Brady was pivotal.

“That is the key man. If you can find a way to rush him up the middle, get him from being able to just stand there, get his feet set, and just be great at moving in the pocket, that’s when you’re going to have success,” said Thomas. “Because if he can just stand there, if he can just stand up in the pocket, that’s when he’s going to have success. You have to get pressure up the middle.”

“It sounds simple,” he said. “But it’s hard to do though.”

3. Coy Wire to air an interview with Jim Kelly on CNN’s pregame show

This season has been a great reminder for what can be achieved through the power of sport. For example, J.J. Watt raising over $40 million for hurricane relief, or Bills fan donating over $400,000 to Andy Dalton’s foundation.

Former Bills safety, Coy Wire, has taken his talents to CNN where he can tell these powerful stories. For Sunday’s big game, Wire teamed up with Jim Kelly to produce a special show for the pregame. It’s titled, ‘Kickoff in Minnesota: A CNN=Bleacher Report Special.’ The show is scheduled to air at 2:30 pm on CNN.

“We do a CNN special every year. A Super Bowl special. Its 30 minutes and this Super Bowl Sunday is World Cancer Day. We wanted to use this angle of Jim Kelly having been to four Super Bowls. One of them being in Minnesota, where this year’s game will be played,” said Wire on the John Murphy Show. “But also, the 2017 football season was an incredible year for the power of sport. J.J. Watt, raising $40 million for hurricane victims, Colin Kaepernick, and all of the positives that came from that. Athletes becoming socially aware.”

“And here you have Jim Kelly, of course going through what he’s going through with cancer. We wanted to share his story and how he is inspiring others and people like him.”

Sunday’s slated to be an extraordinary day for Kelly. He can watch the big game and reminisce on his memories from his Super Bowl appearance in Minnesota. Also, as Wire stated, it’s World Cancer Day. In 2013, Kelly was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. His upper jaw was completely removed before he was declared cancer-free. Then in 2014, the cancer recurred, and Kelly had to come face-to-face with chemotherapy once again.

Now, Kelly can officially say he’s cancer-free. He refuses to feel sorry for himself, instead he uses it as inspiration and helps people who’re going through similar situations.

You won’t want to miss Kelly’s compelling story on how he battled cancer two different times and tackled four Super Bowls. It airs on CNN four hours before kickoff.

“It’s someone who has been through a lot and who has experienced great pain, but also great victories in his life. It really hasn’t changed him much. You get that feel he’s kind of that guy that was just some kid who grew up 60 miles outside of Pittsburgh. I think that’s what draws people to him,” said Wire. “It’s really powerful when you have someone who recognizes the blessings they’ve been given and they try to use them to do good. It’s been a pleasure to get to spend some time with Jim and help share his and Buffalo’s story in the upcoming Super Bowl.”

4. Notable former Bills on the Eagles and Pats

Though the Bills aren’t in the big game, there will be some familiar faces for Buffalo fans. Here are the former Bills players who get to take a shot at the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Patriots

Chris Hogan - He spent his first-four NFL seasons (2012-2015) in Buffalo. Hogan’s been in New England since 2016, and on Sunday he’ll go for his second-straight Super Bowl title.

Mike Gillislee - He spent two seasons (2015-2016) with the Bills and scored 12 touchdowns in 20 games. In his first year with the Patriots, he found it hard to find the field, as he was inactive for seven games.

Eric Lee - He was signed by New England from Buffalo’s practice squad on Nov. 21, 2017. Lee started in five of the six games he’s played in, and has tallied 10 tackles, over three sacks, two passes defended, and one interception.

Alan Branch - He spent the 2013 season in Buffalo and has been in New England ever since. Branch’s been sidelined with a knee injury, but is expected to return for Super Bowl 52.

Stephon Gilmore - He was taken 10th overall by the Bills in 2012 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in his last year (2016) with the team. Late in the AFC Championship game, Gilmore fully extended himself and deflected a pass that ultimately sent the Patriots to Super Bowl 52.

Eagles

Ronald Darby - On Aug. 11, 2017, the Bills acquired Jordan Matthews and the Eagles 2018 third-round pick in exchange for Darby. He’s recorded 30 tackles, nine passes defended, and three interceptions in eight games in Philadelphia.

Corey Graham - He spent three seasons (2014-2016) in Buffalo. He won Super Bowl 47 with the Ravens and will go for his second title on Sunday with the Eagles.

Nigel Bradham - He was a fourth-round pick by the Bills and spent 2012-2015 in Buffalo. Bradham’s been in Philadelphia since 2016 and he’s looking for his first Super Bowl title.

OC Frank Reich - As Buffalo’s backup quarterback, he overcame a 32-point deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers in the 1993 playoffs. To this day, that’s the largest comeback in NFL history. He had four Super Bowl appearances with the Bills, but as you know AFC Championships had to suffice. He’ll look for his first SB ring on Sunday with the Eagles.

DC Jim Schwartz - He spent the 2014 season as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. That year, the Bills ‘D’ ranked fourth in points and yards. Now, he’s the DC for the Eagles, and this season their ‘D’ also ranked fourth in points and yards allowed.

Buffalo Natives

Rob Gronkowski - He’s a native of Williamsville, New York. In his eight seasons with the Patriots he’s been a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and two-time Super Bowl champion. He’ll go for his third title on Sunday.

Steven Means - He was born right here in Buffalo. This is Mean’s second season in Philadelphia, and he’s tallied six tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.