After signing a $39 million contract in March, Shields was expected to step his game up to the next level, not regress. While he's done fine for a majority of the season, this particular game looked bleak for his continued progression in green and gold.
Against the Packers, Jones was able to catch 11 receptions for 259 yards and a touchdown on 17 targets. I'm not sure if the number of receptions, yardage or targets is more shocking. On top of that, he left another touchdown on the field. A majority of this was accomplished with Shields assigned to the Alabama product, according to Pro Football Focus' Bryan Hall.
Sam Shields bore brunt of Julio Jones' explosion (-4.4 coverage) 3-6 for 66 yds. 1 TD. Beaten on go route where Jones couldn't get foot down— Bryan Hall (@PFF_BryanHall) December 9, 2014
Hall's site also graded out Shields as the worst defender on the Packers' side of the ball for the night, according to Cheesehead TV's Brian Carriveau.
Maybe the results of the night wouldn't have carried so much weight if Tramon Williams and Davon House, the Packers' other top-three cornerbacks, weren't heading into free agency next offseason. This would leave slot cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde and sixth-round rookie Demetri Goodson to round out the unit heading into 2015.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out that the 259-yard total was the most of any individual in Falcons history through the air, while it was the most allowed by any individual in Packers history. The fact that Green Bay somehow was in control of the entire game when a player like that went off is amazing, and it speaks volumes about the offense and other portions of the defense.
Julio Jones’ 259 receiving yards Monday night were a Falcons franchise record and the most the Packers’ defense has ever allowed— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 9, 2014
According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, head coach Mike McCarthy said Jones, who now leads the NFL in receiving yards, "was a focus" for them the entire week heading into the game.
Unfortunately, Shields was a part of very little of on-field focusing, as he was recovering from a concussion that occurred during last week's game. According to Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Shields didn't see practice until the day before the Monday night showdown.
The correlation of Shields' lack of preparation and Jones' biggest game of his career makes sense in that way. To truly make sure, though, one needs to look at the coaches' film to make sure it matches what one saw on paper.
Unfortunately for Shields, the tape sticks. The first big play allowed was an intermediate-length comeback route, which Shields couldn't close the gap on when Jones made his outside break.
After allowing Shields to win inside leverage, Jones shook outside to space for the 19-yard catch.
On another play in the fourth quarter, Shields allowed a touchdown due to weak man-to-man coverage. With no help over top, he didn't stall his man at the line of scrimmage. Unable to make up space, he couldn't even track the ball or get his head around when Jones caught the ball.
When the Falcon leaped into the air to make the catch, Shields was still on the ground.
After that play, he didn't take another snap during the game. Instead, House, a lengthy cornerback, was put in over Jones. In the half-quarter he played, he was able to break up two passes that could have been huge plays. Off the bench, House was better at the catch point for the match.
Overall, Shields' game looked as bad on a monitor as it did live. The performance could have been due to him being unprepared for the game, but no matter what, the Packers have to be hoping he strings together some better performances as they head into the playoffs, which they can clinch this week.
House, who has worked his way into the lineup as a nickel corner throughout the year, looked impressive as a replacement covering top targets. Someone should get in Ted Thompson's ear and let him know he needs an extension.
If Shields has another game like that, though, on another short week—for everyone on the squad, not just the defensive back—then Green Bay could have some trouble on its hands.