Bears CB Tillman praised after shutting down Lions WR Johnson
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2012 9:08PM
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Updated: November 25, 2012 11:52AM
Linebacker Brian Urlacher doesn’t see anything complicated about assessing cornerback Charles Tillman after the Bears’ 13-7 victory Monday against the Detroit Lions.
‘‘If Calvin Johnson’s considered the best receiver in the game, then Charles Tillman is the best corner in the game,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘That’s not a stretch. That’s not me being a good teammate. That’s just what it is. He is the best corner in the league.
‘‘He does everything. He picks the ball. He forces fumbles. He takes the best receiver every week, and look at what he does.’’
During the offseason, the Lions made Johnson the highest-paid receiver in the NFL with an eight-year, $132 million extension that included $60 million in guarantees. He entered play Monday averaging 111 receiving yards, but Tillman held him to three catches for 34 yards.
‘‘It’s a tough defense,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘They make you earn everything.’’
Tillman, for his part, deflected the praise from Urlacher.
‘‘He’s a good teammate, and he just wants to see me do well and get recognition,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘But a lot of the recognition I need to give is to my D-line, just because of what they’ve done. They made the quarterback throw the ball a little quicker than he wanted to. And our linebackers were playing great when they had the flat, helping me make some tackles. It really is a team effort.’’
Tillman, though, is well on his way to earning his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection, if not making a run at defensive player of the year. He made the highlight shows with interception returns for touchdowns in victories against the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, but he might have garnered more respect with his shutdown performance against Johnson on ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’
‘‘The defensive coordinator [Rod Marinelli] challenged him, and he got the job done,’’ defensive tackle Henry Melton said of Tillman. ‘‘We just know what he’s going to do. He’s just going to compete. But he’s done that before.’’
Tillman admitted he was ‘‘just kind of in the zone.’’ He said the key is to do the ordinary things exceptionally well, especially against a player such as Johnson.
‘‘Just having the right mental focus,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘Just being calm, hitting the reset button after every play, whether it’s good or bad. Battling and believing.’’
He credited his training-camp battles with teammate Brandon Marshall for his success against the tall, talented Johnson.
‘‘It was great to get that preparation by going against one of the best, day in and day out, during training camp,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘It only helped me and helped my game.’’
Receivers coach Daryl Drake recalled those matchups in camp and marveled at the competitiveness of the two players.
‘‘I missed a lot of things going on because I was always watching that battle,’’ Drake said. ‘‘But it was great for both of them. It was definitely great for Brandon. It frustrated him early, then he got it together, then it frustrated Charles. The work they put in will pay dividends. It really will.’’
But Tillman isn’t satisfied.
‘‘I feel once you feel you’ve peaked and feel like you’ve arrived, you really have just failed,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re just going to be mediocre. I try to get better every game, just a little bit more.’’
When he’s asked to play an opposing receiver one-on-one, Tillman said he sees it as motivation not to let down his teammates.
‘‘There’s a bit of excitement and accountability in knowing that you have 10 other guys relying on you,’’ he said. ‘‘In return, the other 10 guys know that I’m on the island by myself, so they work twice as hard to get to that quarterback.’’