Leslie Frazier said he had not yet heard the reports that the Chicago Bears were interested in interviewing him for their head coaching vacancy, having spent all of Monday preparing for a third meeting with the New England Patriots.
Call it a byproduct of the short week.
"It's almost like you're in a cave working as hard as you can to get up to speed," the Bills defensive coordinator said Monday evening.
It has been 35 days since the Patriots defeated the Bills, 14-10, on a blistery Monday night inside Highmark Stadium. It's only been 15 days since the Bills retaliated with a 33-21 win in Foxborough, which ultimately paved the way for a second straight AFC East title.
Both teams have five days to prepare for the trilogy's finale, a win-or-go-home Wild Card matchup in Orchard Park on Saturday night. The chess match began Monday.
"They're incredible that way in how they can change things up and what Coach (Bill) Belichick does to stay a step ahead," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "So, we obviously have our work cut out for us. It's a short week in some regards here so we've got to get ourselves ready to go in a short amount of time. So that will be the challenge for us."
The Patriots were stubborn in their commitment to the run game during the first meeting, attempting only three passes amid winds that ranged from 25 to 30 miles per hour. They totaled 222 yards on the ground, including a 64-yard score from running back Damien Harris that accounted for half of their points. They brought in a sixth offensive lineman – Mike Onwenu – on 29 of 46 runs.
It was a different story three weeks later. The Patriots – likely a byproduct of both calmer weather and playing from behind – threw the ball 32 times and ran it 27. The Bills, able to rely more often on their base nickel defense, held rookie quarterback Mac Jones to a season-low 31.4 passer rating.
Questions abound ahead of meeting No. 3. How heavily will the Patriots lean on their run game? What role will the weather play? How heavily will the Bills feature Isaiah McKenzie, who – starting in the absence of Cole Beasley – amassed a career-high 125 yards on 11 catches in the victory in Foxborough? How would the Patriots counter McKenzie's involvement?
"There's some good familiarity with the players and the matchups and things like that, but you know, schemes change," offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. "Each game is its own game. Particularly against a team like this, that couldn't be more true."
Here are more notes from Monday's media sessions with McDermott, Daboll, and Frazier.
On requests for interviews with Bills personnel
ESPN's Dan Graziano reported that the Bears had requested permission to interview Frazier after relieving head coach Matt Nagy of his duties on Monday. ESPN's Adam Schefter also reported that the Giants had requested to interview Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen for their GM vacancy.
McDermott declined to comment on the report regarding Schoen but said nothing was official in regard to Frazier.
"Nothing official yet at this point but would certainly be very happy for Leslie if he had that opportunity," McDermott said. "I think he's earned it."
Frazier on the No. 1 defense
The Bills finished 2021 with the NFL's best defense by a variety of measures, including total yards, passing yards, and points allowed. Read more about those numbers here.
Frazier was asked what those rankings meant to him.
"It speaks to all the hard work that the players and the coaches put in throughout the entire offseason, going all the way back to after the Kansas City game, the (AFC) Championship game a year ago," he said. "Our coaches came back and began the work to put together a system for the 2021 defense.
"They laid a really good foundation. Our players bought in throughout the offseason. And it just speaks to the buy-in by our players and the hard work that coaches and players put into it."
The defense closed the season with an exclamation point Sunday. Their nine sacks were the most by a Bills defense since a 10-sack outing against Washington in 2011. They allowed 53 yards to the Jets, the second fewest in a game in team history.
Motor's snap count
Devin Singletary continued his strong finish to the season against the Jets, rushing for 88 yards on 19 carries and adding 24 yards on two receptions. He has played at least 68 percent of offensive snaps in each of the past five weeks. The Bills rank second in the NFL with 809 rushing yards in that span.
"There's one ball, but we've used him as our primary back here the last few weeks," Daboll said. "He's, I'd say, taken advantage of his opportunities, really in all facets, not just with the ball in his hand, but without it in his hands. We're going to need him this week."