NFL

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

The Green Bay Packers are preparing for a battle the San Francisco 49ers on the NFL's championship Sunday. The two will square off in the NFC Championship for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

While Aaron Rodgers and his teammates are doing what they can to be ready for the game, they still aren't exactly sure what to expect from the 49ers.

And Rodgers credited Bill Belichick's influence for that.

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Rodgers explained in a post-practice interview that not knowing what to expect from opposing defenses is something that has been popularized over the course of the past five years. And he called the defense's ability to change up week to week "the Belichick effect".

"I think that’s the NFL in the last five years, especially, it’s kind of the Belichick effect where teams are more reluctant to really try and scheme up opponents instead of relying on their base defense," Rodgers said to reporters.

"There’s less and less teams like the Lovie Smith Bears defenses over the years that say ‘Hey, screw it, we’re going to play four-man front, play Tampa-2 the entire game and make you go the whole field, and strip the ball and tackle securely and stop the run with a six-man, seven-man front.’

"There’s more teams that are scheming specifically up for teams. I think the tough part is it might be different than you saw on film. The drawback from that is a lot of these teams are used to playing coverages they’re not used to playing, they’re not super-comfortable playing, they don’t have a lot of reps in and that can cause some confusion at times."

Rodgers hit the nail on the head as the NFL's best defenses have become more versatile and game plan-dependent in recent seasons. Having multiple defensive looks is essential to success in the modern NFL and Belichick's ability to adjust week in and week out played a big role in kicking off the trend.

Though the Patriots won't have a chance to out scheme anyone on the defensive side of the ball until next season, they can be thankful that they have a forward-thinking coach at the helm. His ability to adjust on defense as well as Josh McDaniels' ability to change the Patriots offense look to match their best weapons have helped to make the team difficult to figure out.

And that's a big part of the reason that they have been able to make multiple deep postseason runs in recent seasons.

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Packers aiming to match rare playoff feat last accomplished by Patriots in 2001

Packers aiming to match rare playoff feat last accomplished by Patriots in 2001

The Green Bay Packers earned an impressive 13-3 record in the regular season, but they haven't always looked like an elite team.

The NFC North champs ranked 15th in points scored, 18th in yards gained and 18th in yards allowed. These numbers don't exactly jump off the page. The Packers also lacked a signature win, and with a chance to make a statement versus the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12, Green Bay was dominated in a 38-7 loss.

However, if veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads his team to an NFC Championship Game victory on the road against the 49ers on Sunday, the Packers will become the first team since the 2001 New England Patriots to reach the Super Bowl after being outgained in the regular season (h/t to NFL Media's Mike Giardi).

The Packers defense gave up 5,642 total yards, while their offense racked up 5,528 total yards, resulting in a difference of minus-114 yards through 16 regular-season games.

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This trend continued in last weekend's NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers escaped with a 28-23 win at Lambeau Field, but the Seahawks outgained them by 31 yards. It also was the Packers' 10th game of the season decided by one score, and Green Bay owns a 9-1 mark in those matchups.

How have the Packers won so many games despite being outgained on a consistent basis? Well, it sure helps to have a quarterback as talented as Rodgers.

The future Hall of Famer sealed the Packers' victory last week with two clutch third-down conversions late in the fourth quarter. It wasn't an all-time performance from Rodgers, but when it's winning time, he usually steps up and makes a huge play. 

Rodgers' playoff experience and ability to come through in the clutch give the Packers an important advantage at the quarterback position entering Sunday's NFC title game. Oddsmakers, however, have still pegged the 49ers as an overwhelming betting favorite.

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo praises Tom Brady's consistency, preparation

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo praises Tom Brady's consistency, preparation

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is no stranger to championship games, but his experience this weekend will be a little bit different.

Garoppolo has led the 49ers to Sunday's NFC Championship Game, where they'll play the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium with a spot in Super Bowl LIV at stake.

The 28-year-old spent a little more than two seasons with the New England Patriots as their backup QB after they drafted him in 2014. The Patriots went to the AFC Championship Game twice in that span, and even though veteran quarterback Tom Brady played all of the snaps in those games, Garoppolo was still able to observe a few things that have helped him with the 49ers.

"I tried to see things from afar," Garoppolo said at his Wednesday press conference. "Obviously, not being on the field, it's a little different. Just the preparation that goes into it, the atmosphere in the locker room, the atmosphere in the whole building, really. I felt it, very similar to [New England], I feel it here. I'm not trying to compare the two teams, but when you get into that playoff atmosphere and it's a championship game, things get amped up. And you have to do the same."

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Garoppolo also highlighted one aspect of Brady's preparation that's made a positive impact on him.

“I haven’t personally talked to him [in the build-up to the NFC title game], but things that I took away from watching him go through it and everything, just the consistency that he had throughout the entire run,” Garoppolo said. “Whatever it was, the first playoff game, the Super Bowl -- he was very consistent between all of it, and I think that just goes into your preparation throughout the week. If you are prepared going into the game, then you’re going to play like that.”

Garoppolo and the 49ers earned a berth to the NFC Championship Game with a 27-10 victory against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round last weekend. If the 49ers win two more games, Garoppolo will not only earn his first Super Bowl ring as a starting quarterback, he'll move the 'Niners into a tie with the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most championships (six) in the Super Bowl era.