Aaron Rodgers vs Bill Belichick: Get Ready for a Classic NFL Chess Match

When the Green Bay Packers take on the New England Patriots Sunday at Lambeau Field, there will be a classic clash of two of the game’s all-time greats. On one side, you have Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, one of the greatest defensive masterminds in the history of the game. On the other side, you have Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the best QBs at reading defenses and changing plays at the line of scrimmage. Let the chess match begin.

Belichick has been doing this a long time. He became the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in 1985 and helped the team win Super Bowls after the 1986 and 1990 campaigns. In Super Bowl XXV, Belichick helped limit the potent offense of the highly favored Buffalo Bills to just 19 points as the Giants upset the Bills 20-19 in one of the more dramatic Super Bowls ever. The Bills featured Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, James Lofton and Andre Reed and had led the league in scoring that season with their K-Gun offense. Belichick figured out how to shut them down just enough to pull off the upset.

As a head coach, Belichick has won a record six Super Bowls. He did it with Tom Brady, one of the all-time great quarterbacks and an imaginative approach to defensive football.

Belichick is outstanding at taking away the strength of his opponent’s offense. He determines what the other team does best and devises a strategy to take that away from them.

The big question is what will Belichick try to take away from the Packers on Sunday? Will he say the strength of the Green Bay offense is the running game and try to take away Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon who are the team’s most consistent and dynamic offensive weapons or will he say we can’t let Rodgers beat us through the air and concentrate on shutting down the passing game?

Belichick also does a very good job of disguising his defensive coverages and formations. He will mix up different types of zone coverages throughout the course of a game or mix in man-to-man coverage in the middle of a drive. New England defenses look like one type of defense but end up playing another. This is designed to keep quarterbacks off-balance and to force them to make mistakes. Historically, it has worked very well.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers have one of the best quarterbacks at reading plays and minimizing mistakes. Rodgers uses a lot of time at the line of scrimmage to examine where the defense is lined up and audibles just before the ball is snapped and often just before the play clock expires to respond to the defense the other team is showing.

The Packers offense this season has been using a lot of run-pass options or RPOs. There are two possible plays called in the huddle and Rodgers chooses which one will work best at the line of scrimmage depending on the formation the defense lines up in.

One of the reasons Rodgers has been so successful over the course of his career is he does not make many significant mistakes that result in turnovers. Rodgers has thrown just 95 regular-season interceptions in his career and he is now in his 18th season. His career interception percentage of 1.3 in 7,212 attempts, is the lowest in NFL history among qualified quarterbacks.

On each play, there will be a chess match between Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur who calls the plays for the Packers and Belichick who manages the Patriots defense. Move and countermove will be made. Undoubtedly, there will be some plays where Belichick fools Rodgers and the Patriots derail the Packers planned play. There will also be plays where Rodgers figures out the defense and calls the right play to create a big gain or even a score.

Whichever side wins this chess match will have a big advantage on Sunday. Of course, the Packers defense is also playing at a high level and if they continue to do that this week, it will give Rodgers a bigger margin for error.

This should be one of the more interesting matchups of the season. The defensive genius versus the four-time NFL MVP going head-to-head as each side tries to gain a key advantage. It should make for a very entertaining football game.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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4 points

Comments (16)

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PatrickGB's picture

October 01, 2022 at 11:04 am

Oh, I can’t wait! After the storm I want and need a good game to take away my mind from its destruction.

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Coldworld's picture

October 01, 2022 at 01:42 pm

I hope you came through with everything intact.

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splitpea1's picture

October 01, 2022 at 11:23 am

Why wouldn't Belichick try to do something similar to what Bowles did in the second half in Tampa? If he lets Jones and Dillon get rolling, his team is probably cooked. Until proven otherwise, make the Packers beat you over the top.

And even though J. McDaniels is no longer around, I wouldn't put it past Belichick to try something unorthodox on either offense or special teams in an effort to even the odds here.

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Since'61's picture

October 01, 2022 at 12:13 pm

First of all shouldn’t the alleged chess match be between MLF and Belichick? Secondly, in the 1980
SB the Giants offense held the ball for nearly 41 minutes. I think that had a lot more to do with holding down the Bills offense than BBs defense.

As for this game it will be a matter of controlling the LOS on both sides of the ball and more importantly of MLF adjusting his offense and defense to the adjustments that BB will make as the game goes on.

If the Packers are not prepared to adjust similar to how they did not adjust against Tampa they will enable the Pats to hang around. No excuse for that.

Pound away of offense and confuse and blitz Hoyer on defense. Bottom line, execute and win the LOS. Playing at home, with the better team and weather will not be a factor.
GPG! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Coldworld's picture

October 01, 2022 at 01:40 pm

We need to play our weapons and be willing to use them . We need to stop their run game and challenge Hoyer to beat us in the air, but to expect the same approach from them. The difference is that Rodgers is more than capable of punishing them for crowding the line, if LaFleur gives him the players and the calls that puts receivers in a position to make deeper plays.

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NickPerry's picture

October 01, 2022 at 02:54 pm

"The difference is that Rodgers is more than capable of punishing them for crowding the line, if LaFleur gives him the players and the calls that puts receivers in a position to make deeper plays."

Not just MLF calling the plays but Rodgers has to be WILLING to throw the ball deep to Watson or Doubs. In week one after Watson dropped that deep pass Rodgers never even looked at Watson when he was deep again.

These are Rodgers WRs now. Sooner or later you have to just throw them the damn ball. Not just that he's got Jenkins and Bakhtiari back at the tackle spots which should give him a bit more time. Now if we can just get Newman replaced with Tom or even kick Jenkins inside to RG and Tom at RT, IMO then the Packers would have their best 5 out there. Newman is a depth guy at this point in his career. Maybe one day he turns into Sitton 2.0 but he's not there yet.

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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2022 at 09:11 am

I’m not arguing that Rodgers isn’t potentially part of the problem. My position Is that, until LaFleur calls plays that provide the option, one can’t blame the QB. It starts with LaFleur.

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HarryHodag's picture

October 02, 2022 at 08:48 am

I thought it curious as well that Matt LaFleur was an afterthought to game strategy. It's MLF's offense that Rodgers employs.

Rodgers became the de facto general manager, now I guess he's the de facto coach too.

If the offensive line gives Rodgers enough time I think MLF will unleash the passing game. The Patriots will be geared to stop the run. Good opportunity to see if Watson can compete at this level or is on his way to being an injured bust.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 01, 2022 at 12:40 pm

I listened to the comments on the Patriots site. And the players they mentioned and feared (besides Rodgers) were Lazard and Gary. And interestingly they also mentioned their own concerns about their special teams.

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Coldworld's picture

October 01, 2022 at 02:13 pm

They don’t really know any others except that Cobb’s old. From what I’ve seen they are more hopeful that their RB tandem is better than ours (questionable) and that Rodgers doesn’t have any weapons he will throw to (since his yards per target is more than a yard shorter than any other QB this season, one can see why). They are worried about Lazard in their slot because he’s a smaller back. They should be more worried about Doubs or Toure, because he’s also not fast, though he’s got good ball skills.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

October 01, 2022 at 01:46 pm

Unfortunately for Belichick coaching expertise will only carry you so far; he doesn't have the horses to win this matchup. It amounts to trying to win a tree climbing race using only one leg. I expect this game to be an easy one for the Packers.

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Coldworld's picture

October 01, 2022 at 02:05 pm

It should be if our D can contain their run. It will be if we are willing to run and to pass downfield.

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jont's picture

October 01, 2022 at 02:04 pm

I agree with you, Gill-- shess match, decision making, maintain a steady advantage, and take your shot when you can. I expect a win, a close game but never really in doubt, but I am not seeing the same things as those who think GB will run up and down the field on them.

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pacman's picture

October 01, 2022 at 07:55 pm

Yes, we SHOULD win easily.

I hope MLF and the team don't come up with one of our infamous choke games. Too many let downs by this team over the last few years and this is the biggest one. This just cannot happen ever again. (ok, at least 2-3 years!)

And I hope they get a 22+ point lead before they start playing soft. (Or is that now 25+ with the 2 pt conversion?)

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Spock's picture

October 02, 2022 at 01:08 pm

Disagree with the author that 'trap' games are "mythical". There are plenty Packer games where they came in a little too cocky from reading the pre-game press clippings and played down to their opponents. How many times can you remember backup and mediocre QB's having CAREER GAMES against a clearly better Packers team?!!! That said, I don't expect that to happen today (crosses fingers). GPG!

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

October 04, 2022 at 04:03 pm

After watching the Packers/Patriots game on TV and then watching it again, I was impressed with how competitive Blelichick made his team against superior personnel. It reminded me of a quote made by an old time NFL head coach named Bum Phillips when talking about the Alabama head coach, Bear Bryant.
Bum said " Bryant can take his'n and beat your'n, and then he can turn around and take your'n and beat his'n"

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