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Shields denies Bears’ comeback

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Lori Nickel
January 24, 2011
— One of Nick Collins’ jobs, as a veteran, is to talk to his teammates before every play. So the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl safety did pull rookie cornerback Sam Shields over before that fourth-down, for-all-the-marbles play by the Chicago Bears at the end of the game.

“All I told him was, just play disciplined,” said Collins. “And you’ll get your shot.”


Chicago quarterback Caleb Hanie launched the pass that could have tied the game, forcing overtime.


He was trying for receiver Johnny Knox.


Collins read the pass.


Shields read the pass.


And having studied his responsibilities and route combinations after having talking to Collins, Shields knew where No. 36 was.


“I was over the top,” said Collins.


“So I could undercut it,” said Shields.


“Either he was going to make the play, or I was going to make the play,” said Collins.


Shields leaped up and caught the interception—his second of the game, the greatest of his life—to deny the Bears a comeback and allow the Packers to go to the Super Bowl.


“Just a great feeling, with how much chemistry we have in that back end,” said Collins. “We just play as one. Very sound.”


Nose tackle B.J. Raji was just trying to get pressure up the middle but knew something good happened when he heard a big sigh, then silence in the crowd.


He turned around and saw Shields running with the ball.


“Sam’s a great player,” Raji said. “I don’t know how he slipped through the cracks, but I’m glad we got him.”


As an undrafted rookie free agent, Shields filled in as the nickel corner this year and seems to have gotten exponentially better with every game.


In the NFC Championship Game, he had a sack. He stripped the football from starting quarterback Jay Cutler in the second quarter. Eight plays later, he had his first interception of the game.


“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Shields said after the game.


“We’ve all seen Sam when he came in at training camp,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. “He had some physical tools, we knew he was very fast. We put him out there in the opening game against the Eagles, and I think he’s been growing ever since then, and so I think he’s playing some of his best football now.”



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