If the Chicago Bears were going to do an in-depth study of their simultaneous search for a new head coach and general manager, perhaps their Saturday night homework should have ended with a peek into the interview rooms at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. .
Start with Bill Belichick. Legendary coach for the New England Patriots. Defense genius. Six-time Super Bowl winner. However, as his night drew to a close, Belichick was humiliated, defeated, and visibly disappointed. His top five defensemen were swept to pieces by the Buffalo Bills, blown to pieces like a rotten pumpkin, in a 47-17 loss in the AFC playoffs.
“We just couldn’t keep up with them tonight,” Belichick said. “Of course they deserved to win. Trains well. They worked well and we just couldn’t do anything.”
Belichick’s impenetrable expression and brief monotonous manner of speech were hardly new. He often responds this way even after impressive triumphs.
But the level of his humiliation was certainly rare. Belichick’s previous 11 postseason losses with the Patriots had averaged nine points. On Saturday, the Patriots fell behind forever after the first possession and lost by 30.
Somewhere in Lake Forest, the quintet of executives leading the Bears’ search were to take notes on Belichick’s impressions of the crime against the Bills, led by coordinator Brian Daball, who was on the Bears’ interview itinerary on Sunday.
Bears chairman George McCaskey had to have a pen and pad to document Belichick’s frustration.
We just couldn’t do anything.
“It was too much for us today,” Belichick added.
Around the corner at the bottom of Highmark Stadium, Bills quarterback Josh Allen was a little more emotional. Allen, seated next to Devin Singletary running back, was visibly pleased with the results of the evening. How could it not be after such a beating?
Allen noted how well Billy prepared for the game with a familiar opponent.
“The guys were in touch,” he said. “We trained hard. We made a really good game plan. And Daball lit it.”
It doesn’t take a sophisticated football appraiser to realize that what the Billys did on Saturday night was extraordinary and rare. They had the ball eight times and made a stunning formation: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, “victory formation.”
The Bills gained 489 yards and 29 first downs. Their offense didn’t flip the ball, never hit or sack. Fifteen of their 54 plays went for at least 15 yards. Only two of them showed negative results – a pair of Mitch Trubisky kneel throws to kill the last minute out of time.
All this in a playoff game. Against a mean defense led by Belichick.
For some of the Bills’ most influential leaders, the romp time was the best it could be. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has two head coach interviews scheduled: one with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and his meeting with the Bears has been rescheduled for later this week. Bills Assistant Director of Human Resources Joe Sean was also scheduled to meet with the Bears about their GM reopening.
Strike while the iron is hot, right? This is the very definition. And especially for Daball, who had Saturday’s offensive masterpiece to present to the Bears as proof that he had the ability and vision to be the catalyst for a long-awaited revival in Chicago.
DaBall’s work with Allen over the past four seasons should be an A in his head coach ad campaign, especially in terms of his ability to bring out the best in a young, super-talented quarterback.
The Bears’ mission to turn Justin Fields into a star is at the center of this newest reboot. Nothing is more important to the organization’s long-term prospects than the effort to ensure Fields reaches his full potential.
In Buffalo, over the past four years, Daball has found answers to similar questions. Allen was the third quarterback selected in the 2018 draft, No. 9, after the Cleveland Browns first drafted Baker Mayfield and the New York Jets followed two picks later, grabbing Sam Darnold.
Like Fields, Allen was not good as a rookie. He started 11 games and had 10 touchdowns, 14 assists and a passer rating of 67.9. Fields has started 10 games this season with seven TD assists, 15 assists and a 73.2 rating.
Yet, three years later, Allen rose to the top of the NFL quarterback rankings, pushing his team to the Super Bowl for the second straight season. In 2020, he threw for 4,544 yards and threw for 37 touchdowns. Both marks would break the Bears’ records in a single season. Allen continued this season with 4,407 yards and 36 touchdowns.
At this stage, no one in the league would be surprised if the Bills were in the Super Bowl four weeks later, especially after they smashed the Patriots on Saturday night.
Daball’s fingerprints are all over Allen’s height. There has been praise in the NFL for how Daball not only capitalized on his quarterback’s strongest points, but also worked to address Allen’s weaknesses by developing his game and improving his fielding savvy.
The connection between the two was clear: DaBall had helped Allen build up command and take charge of Bills’ attack, as well as understanding how to use the team’s weapons to Allen’s liking.
Allen praised Daball as a leader whom he loves very much. And he adopted Daball’s teachings in such a way that he achieved championship results. The Bills have won the AFC East two years in a row and will play either the Cincinnati Bengals or the Kansas City Chiefs for a spot in the conference championship game.
So many things were exposed on Saturday. The scores showed how prudent they could be in using game actions; how they can be combined in an effective screen game; how they can set up a solid game and load even the top-notch NFL defense in so many different ways. Allen threw for 308 yards with five touchdown passes. The Bills added 174 yards and Singletary scored twice.
Now add this to the Halas Hall legal notepad: The Bills have not won a playoff game since 1995 until 2020, and 18 years have elapsed between playoff appearances. They now have three playoff wins in the last 13 months and it looks like the window is open for Super Bowl chasing for at least the next four or five years.
Sounds fun, right?
To be sure, conversations with Daball, Frazier and Schoen should give the Bears valuable insight into what turn they are trying to make again.
But if these Zoom interviews weren’t enough, Halas Hall leaders can now watch a 2-hour, 56-minute fireworks display.
Billy 47, Patriots 17.
Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, victory formation.
“Coach Daball is picking up the pace,” Singletary said.
For what it’s worth, Daball’s first job in the NFL was as a quality control coach in New England during Belichick’s first season coaching the Patriots.
So, yes, Belichick was more than familiar with the man who directed the Bills bombing on Saturday. In years past, Belichick publicly praised Daball for making his crimes sound, understanding the personnel he had to work with, finding creative and sometimes simple ways to create inconsistencies.
On Saturday, Belichick witnessed what it looks like when it all comes together. And Dabol has a new opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.