Patriots’ Bill Belichick is unprecedented challenge for Bears’ Matt Eberflus

If the Patriots overpower the Bears on the strength of their personnel, Eberflus will have to accept that. But he can’t allow Belichick to thoroughly outfox him. He has to show he can trade punches with the best.

SHARE Patriots’ Bill Belichick is unprecedented challenge for Bears’ Matt Eberflus
A photo of Patriots coach Bill Belichick listening to a question at a recent news conference.

Belichick is tied with Bears’ coach George Halas with 324 career victories, including playoffs.

AP Photos

As Matt Eberflus tries to establish himself as a first-time head coach, he’s about to take on one of the legends of the profession in Bill Belichick.

As Belichick looks to overtake George Halas for sole possession of second place on the all-time wins list when the Bears visit his Patriots on Monday night, Halas’ team has done little to slow his pursuit. The Bears’ lone victory against Belichick was in 2000, when Shane Matthews outdueled Drew Bledsoe at Soldier Field.

That was Belichick’s debut season with New England, and everything changed when Tom Brady took over as the starting quarterback the next year. Belichick is now a six-time champion with a 324-159 record, and he has five consecutive wins against the Bears by a total of 71 points.

Belichick is 70, and depending on how long he plans to keep coaching, this could be the only shot Eberflus gets at him. The Bears don’t have another set matchup against the Patriots until 2026, though they could host them in 2024 depending on where each team finishes in its division the previous season.

While Belichick certainly was fortunate to strike gold with Brady, his defensive mastery has been unmatched. The Patriots were in the top 10 in fewest points allowed the last 11 seasons and are seventh this season at 18.8 per game. As someone who spent his entire 30-year coaching career on defense before taking over the Bears, Eberflus knows he’s up against true excellence.

“Look at the record,” he said. “We’re all really judged on wins and losses and championships, and certainly he has that. And his teams do the same thing — they’re fundamentally sound, and they play football the right way.”

Under Belichick, the Patriots have been the model organization when it comes to that.

They draft and develop, they’re prudent in free agency and they identify talent where other teams miss it. Their contingencies are often better than other teams’ Plan A.

They constantly bring in quarterbacks and maximize them. It’s no surprise then that Mac Jones has been the steadiest of the 2021 draft class, and even rookie Bailey Zappe seems instantly competent. Jones is questionable with an ankle injury, and Belichick hasn’t said who will start Monday.

The Patriots are an incubator for future head coaches and general managers, the Harvard of the NFL when it comes to player evaluation and scheme sophistication.

The Bears are more of a cautionary tale of what it looks like when a franchise can’t check any of those boxes.

That’s what makes wide receiver N’Keal Harry, for example, an intriguing case study. He was a rare draft miss by the Pats, who took him in the first round in 2019 and couldn’t develop him. They cut their losses by offloading him to the Bears for a 2024 seventh-round pick in July.

Can Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy — under the watch of general manager Ryan Poles — solve a riddle that stumped Belichick?

That’s more of a big-picture question. Eberflus needs to show he’s able to hold his own in the game Monday.

He must prepare quarterback Justin Fields and the offense for the most unpredictable defensive strategist in the league. Eberflus has to prove he can use his defensive expertise to decode Belichick’s, and it shouldn’t be too much to ask of him to come up with a game plan that can flummox Jones (20 career starts) or Zappe (two).

If the Patriots overpower the Bears on the strength of their personnel, Eberflus will have to accept that. But he can’t allow Belichick to thoroughly outfox him. It’s not a valid excuse that Belichick is the NFL’s top coach. There are no weight classes in this league. Eberflus has to show he can trade punches with the best.

The Latest
Messi was officially named to Argentina’s 29-man roster on Monday for a pair of friendlies before Copa America.
Witnesses saw the baker pull a gun during a brawl at the River North restaurant on Friday and heard what they thought were two or three gunshots. The baker has a valid Firearm Owner Identification card but is not a concealed carry license holder. Police said he will face no charges.
Agnieszka Rydzewski es acusada de solicitar el asesinato de Arturo Cantú, quien presuntamente fue asesinado a tiros a principios de esta semana por Anthony Calderón en un triángulo amoroso en los suburbios del suroeste.
A City Council vote on $70 million in migrant funding highlighted the situation faced by communities like South Shore: Migrants have been resettled in Black communities where people have been fighting for decades for development and resources.
Al dictar la sentencia, la jueza Virginia Kendall le dijo a Janice Weston: “Es muy preocupante. Tuviste unos momentos en los que sabías que era ilegal y pudiste irte”.