Get ready for a classic NFL chess match
When the Green Bay Packers take on the New England Patriots on Sunday at Lambeau Field, there will be a classic clash between two of the greatest players of all time. On one side you have Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, one of the greatest defensive minds in sports history. On the other side, you have Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the best QBs at reading defenses and changing play at the line of scrimmage. Let the game of chess begin.
Belichick has been doing this for a long time. He became the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in 1985 and helped the team win the Super Bowl after the 1986 and 1990 campaigns. In Super Bowl XXV, Belichick helped limit the Buffalo Bills’ powerful offense heavily favored at just 19 points as the Giants upset the Bills 20-19 in one of the most 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 this season with their K-Gun offense. Belichick figured out how to close them just enough to avoid upset.
As a head coach, Belichick 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 notable for taking the force out of his opponent’s attack. He figures out what the other team does best and strategizes to take it 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 Green Bay’s offense is the running game and try to take off Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon who are the most consistent and dynamic offensive weapons on the team or will he say it that we can’t let Rodgers beat us in the air and focus on stopping the passing game?
Belichick also does a pretty good job of disguising his defensive coverage and formations. It will mix different types of area coverage throughout a game or mix 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 force them to make mistakes. Historically, this 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 broken and often just before the game clock expires to respond to the defense the other team is showing .
The Packers’ offense this season has used many run-pass or RPO options. 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 is lining up in.
One of the reasons Rodgers has done so well in his career is because he doesn’t make a lot of big mistakes that lead to turnovers. Rodgers had just 95 regular season interceptions during his career and is now down to 18e season. His career interception percentage of 1.3 on 7,212 attempts is the lowest in NFL history among qualified quarterbacks.
On every play, there will be a chess match between Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur who calls plays for the Packers and Belichick who manages the Patriots defense. A move and a counter-move will be performed. Undoubtedly, there will be games where Belichick cheats Rodgers and the Patriots derail the Packers’ planned game. There will also be games where Rodgers determines the defense and calls the right play to create a big win or even a score.
Whichever team 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 so this week, it will give Rodgers more room for error.
This should be one of the most interesting matchups of the season. The defensive genius against the four-time NFL MVP goes head-to-head as each team tries to gain a key advantage. This should make for a very entertaining football game.