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Top Player Playoff Performances Under Ted Thompson – Part 8: Sam Shields and Tramon Williams Super Bowl Run

January 25, 2018

Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers intercepts a pass in the endzone against Michael Jenkins #12 of the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Of all the plays to be made by Packer corners entering the 2010 playoffs, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields were not the names NFL fans expected to hear. Charles Woodson was the face of the defense everyone knew (and quarterbacks feared),while Williams and Shields were far from household names. Both went undrafted and Shields was a rookie while Williams had a couple productive seasons under his belt. Still, as they entered the biggest stages of their young careers, they rose to the occasion and amassed 5 interceptions between them in the three playoff games leading to the Super Bowl.

During Wildcard weekend, the Packers faced Michael Vick and the Eagles. While the defense held its own for most of the game, the Packers 21-16 lead was in jeopardy as the final minutes ticked down. The Eagles had the ball at the Packers’ 27 yard line with 45 seconds remaining after a completion to Brent Celek. With no time outs Vick elected not to spike the ball, instead dropping back and tacking a shot at the endzone. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Tramon Williams was on the targeted wide receiver (Riley Cooper) the whole play. Having started in off coverage, when Cooper went deep to the endzone, there was no chance for a completion as Tramon read it the whole way. By the time Vick threw the ball, Tramon was in perfect position to react, turning his hips inside and going up for the game sealing interception. Thus the Packers were headed to Atlanta to face the 13-3 #1 seeded Falcons.

While the game in Atlanta started off less than ideal (with an offensive fumble and a kick off return touchdown allowed), the defense was actually performing pretty decently. With the score tied 14-14 despite the Packer miscues, Matt Ryan had put together a drive that got them to the Packers’ 19. However, following a sack by Charles Woodson, the Falcons faced a 3rd and 21 from the Packers’ 26 yard line. Off the snap, Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins actually got past Williams. However in order for Matt Ryan to move Packers safety Charlie Peprah away that side of the field, he pump faked to the middle of the field before he threw to Jenkins in the endzone. While Peprah reacted to the middle of the field off the pump, Williams made up the lost ground and Jenkins ran out of room. Jenkins tried stopping when the ball arrived but slipped as Williams high pointed the ball and came down with the interception.

Thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ career day, and having his way with the Falcons defense (free pass rushers or not), the Packers took Tramon’s pick the other way for the touchdown, putting them up 21-14 and silencing the home crowd of the #1 NFC seed. Even if you could not imagine the home crowd being more stunned, you would witness it only a few minutes later as the Falcons found themselves with just enough time to put some points on the board. And while Matt Ryan was about to help put points on the board, I doubt it was in the manner he intended. After consecutive Defensive Pass Interference Penalties on Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, Clay Matthews sacked Matt Ryan for a 9-yard loss. This set up a 2nd and 19 at the Packers’ 35 with 10 seconds remaining. Looking to shorten their field goal attempt, Matt Ryan attempted a sideline pass to Roddy White just inside the 30 but Tramon Williams was reading it the whole way and jumped the route for the interception. With time expiring, Williams set his sight on the endzone, briefly streaking up the sideline until Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez cut him off. Cutting inside of them, Williams probably didn’t even need the block from Erik Walden to race untouched to the endzone, celebrating at the 15-yard line while Nick Collins cleared up Michael Jenkins’ pursuit. In the words of Joe Buck, “they tried to bite off more yardage and they just got burned!” With time expired, and after the extra point, the Packers went into halftime up 28-14 with a red-hot Rodgers set to receive the 2nd half possession. Thanks in big part to Tramon Williams, the Packers scored two touchdowns in 42 seconds to help propel them to a 48-21 rout and an NFC Championship appearance against their oldest rival.

True to the nature of the rivalry, the NFC Championship against the Chicago Bears was a slow, grinding, low scoring affair featuring stingy defense. After scoring touchdowns on five consecutive possessions the week before, the Packer offense managed only two scoring drives all day. So far Tramon Williams had been the defensive star for the playoffs, but he would take a backseat to the rookie out of Miami, Sam Shields. Shields (who was playing only his 2nd year at corner) would spend most of the day following Bears’ wide receiver Johnny Knox. It was a match of speedster vs speedster and one that Shields would win.

Shields’ first big play came with just under two minutes remaining in the 1st half and the Bears facing a 3rd and 7 from their own 33-yard line. Instead of dropping into coverage, he was brought on a blitz and not only got home but forced the Jay Cutler fumble. Unfortunately, the ever hustling Matt Forte jumped on it, preserving the Bears’ possession for an immediate punt. While the Packers did not recover the fumble, this game almost went a lot differently. The Packers almost set up shop inside the Bears’ 30-yard line already leading 14-0. Thankfully, Sam Shields was far from done.

Following the Shields sack and subsequent Bears’ punt, the Packers managed to move the ball downfield a bit. That is until a low Aaron Rodgers’ pass bounced off Donald Driver’s foot and right into the arms of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Suddenly the Bears had the ball and 42 seconds to make it a one score game. After a quick pass to Matt Forte, they had the ball at the Green Bay 41. On the very next play, Jay Cutler decided to take a shot deep for Johnny Knox. Usually a safe bet considering Knox had the speed to blow by most corners in the league and was matched up against an undrafted rookie. Problem was that rookie, Sam Shields, was just as fast. After travelling up field step for step, Shields looked back, pinpointed the ball and leapt from the 10-yard line. He seemed to be in the air for ages before the ball hit his hands, and he certainly travelled some distance as his foot his the 5-yard line as he came down with the ball.. After the interception was upheld upon review, the Packers were able to maintain their 14-0 lead going into the half.

Sam Shields would make his 3rd big time play of the day again at crunch time with the Bears down 21-14 and driving to tie the game. Facing a 4th and 5 at the Packers 26 yard line, Hanie tried getting the ball to Johnny Knox who was being covered by that undrafted rookie out of Miami. Again though, Sam Shields had perfect positioning. With Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Safety Nick Collins providing over the top coverage, Shields played underneath and cut across for the game sealing interception. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman say it all regarding the rookie and the game winning play. The Packers were on their way to SuperBowl 45.

The Packers were hot out of the gate in SuperBowl 45, going up 21-3 fast on the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, as the Steelers climbed back in it, the Packers faced the all too familiar theme of their season: Veteran players going out with injuries and requiring young guys to step up. On offense it was long time receiver Donald Driver going out with an ankle injury, and on defense, Charles Woodson broke his collarbone on a diving pass breakup. With Tramon Williams and Sam Shields having to shoulder most of the corner responsibilities and trying to fill the void of Woodson, the Steelers began to mount their comeback. While most of the Steelers’ success was up the middle of the field and against backup corners like Jarrett Bush/Pat Lee both Shields and Williams struggled at times as Shields himself suffered a shoulder injury and saw limited snaps for the 2nd half. Finally, with about two minutes remaining, the Steelers got the ball, down 31-25 and needing a touchdown to win it. It was eerily similar to their 2008 Superbowl against the Cardinals. With Tramon Williams the only healthy starting Packer corner, the odds didn’t look good at stopping Big Ben from driving down the field to win the Superbowl yet again. However, after some miscommunication, the Steelers faced a 4th and 5 on their own 33-yard line. The Packers needed one more stop. One more big play from somebody on defense to bring the Lombardi Trophy home where it belongs. After dropping back, Big Ben targeted Mike Wallace, hitting him right in the hands for the first down. Except Tramon Williams was right there, used his right hand to cleanly knock the ball out of Wallace’s hands to force the incompletion. While there seemed to be an initial question as to whether there should have been a defensive penalty, replays confirmed Tramon Williams made a clean, fantastic pass breakup to secure the Superbowl victory. Off all the plays he is remembered for, this one seems to be forgotten despite its importance. If Mike Wallace makes that catch, the Steelers get a first down and continue a drive against a depleted Packer corner unit of Williams, Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush. Maybe the Packers stop them, maybe they don’t. But thanks to the pass break up by Tramon Williams, we never had to find out.

Via: reddit.com

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