LANDOVER, Md. (WROC) — Brian Urlacher is one of the greatest middle linebackers to play the game. The Bears’ great was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Terrel Bernard has started just three games at middle linebacker.
But the two are now in the same company after Sunday’s dominant 37-3 win over the Commanders.
Bernard became the first player since Urlacher in 2007 to record an interception, recover a fumble, and have two sacks in the same game.
“He comes to work every day. He puts in the time,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott. “He prepares. He’s mature beyond his years. That’s really why he’s had the success he’s had to this point.”
Bernard took over for Tremaine Edmunds, who manned the role for five years and left for the Chicago Bears in free agency. The two are different types of middle linebackers, with Bernard being quicker but smaller. But for now, he’s proven to be a worthy replacement.
“He’s only in his second year in the league, but it feels like he’s in year ten,” said edge rusher Shaq Lawson. “He’s the last to leave the building. He’s always taking care of his body. As a young player, you don’t see that. I wasn’t even doing that. He approaches the game like a pro.”
Bernard ignited a defensive performance that saw the Bills intercept Sam Howell four times and sack him nine times. His first-quarter pick started the avalanche, just like he gets the team fired up before they even step on the field.
“You should see how this man starts,” said AJ Epensa, who had his first career interception and touchdown. “Before the takes the field, you see him and Jordan Poyer. I get juiced up when I watch them. They’ll stand about five or six yards apart from each other and just take turns hitting each other. It’s not like a warmup tackle either. They hit each other hard. That gets me juiced up just watching them do it.”
“It’s just building confidence that I can do it,” said Bernard of his performance. “Coming in, you don’t really know, to be honest with you. Going day by day, trying to stack days, get the confidence of my teammates, get the confidence of myself, get the confidence of the coaches.”
It’s clear that Bernard has built up that level of trust with his teammates.
“It seems like he’s always around the ball, great instincts,” said safety Jordan Poyer. “He commands the defense. He made some huge plays today that kept our momentum going and he’s going to continue to make plays for this defense. He’s a great player.”
Bernard’s performance is even more impressive given the fact that he missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury.
“Look at him now,” said defensive tackle Jodan Phillips. “If you go out there and make plays on this defense, Bills Mafia is going to love you. The upstairs is going to love you. Just go make plays and have fun. Do what got you there.”
So far, the Bernard-led defense has given up just two touchdowns in three games this year. However, they went up against Zach Wilson, Jimmy Garrapolo, and Howell in those matchups.
Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, fresh off of a 70-point performance against the Broncos, will be a much stiffer test next week in a pivotal game in Orchard Park.
One thing is for certain— the Bills have all the confidence in their defensive play-caller that he can deliver.