Peanut’s Top 10: Tillman’s biggest moments
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 12, 2013 10:08PM
1A game-winning 22-yard interception return in overtime against Jeff Garcia and the Lions that gave the Bears a 19-13 victory in 2005. It was part of an eight-game win streak that thrust Lovie Smith’s Bears into Super Bowl contention.
2A 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 5:00 left against the Cardinals that set the stage for Devin Hester’s game-winning punt return in the ‘‘Miracle in the Desert.’’ It was part of a 7-0 start that carried the Bears to Super Bowl XLI.
3 Wrestling the ball from Randy Moss for an interception in the end zone that clinched a 13-10 victory over the Vikings in 2003. Moss had 99 receptions for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games to that point.
Updated: November 13, 2013 10:11AM
If Charles Tillman never again plays for the Bears, he still will leave Chicago as the best cornerback in franchise history. Tillman is third on the Bears’ all-time list with 36 interceptions and holds team records with eight interception-return touchdowns and nine total defensive touchdowns. His 42 forced fumbles since 2003 are the most in the NFL in that span and altered the way NFL teams approach the forced fumble on both sides of the ball.
Despite Pro Bowl recognition in 2011 and 2012, Tillman’s impact has been underappreciated not only throughout the league but in Chicago. While he has a knack for big plays, he has made plenty of small ones that also have made the difference but either don’t show up in the game book or are largely ignored. His leadership and experience have unique value that could impact offseason contract negotiations.
At the right price, it’s likely he’ll return. If not, he leaves a legacy of memorable moments and a standard for cornerback play in Chicago:
1) A game-winning 22-yard interception return in overtime against Jeff Garcia and the Lions that gave the Bears a 19-13 victory in 2005. It was part of an eight-game winning streak that thrust Lovie Smith’s Bears into Super Bowl contention.
2) A 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 5:00 left in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals that set the stage for Devin Hester’s game-winning punt return in the ‘‘Miracle in the Desert.’’ It was part of a 7-0 start that carried the Bears to Super Bowl XLI.
3) Wrestling the ball from Randy Moss for an interception in the end zone that clinched a 13-10 victory over the Vikings in 2003. Moss had 99 receptions for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games to that point.
4) An interception of Brett Favre in the end zone and 95-yard return in the final seconds of the first half that led to a 10-point turnaround in a 19-7 victory over the Packers in 2005 at Soldier Field. Tillman also recovered a muffed punt and forced a fumble in that game. The Bears had lost 19 of 22 games to the Packers at that time.
5) A forced fumble and recovery of a Peyton Manning-to-Bryan Fletcher pass in Super Bowl XLI against the Colts that gave the Bears possession at their 36-yard line, trailing 16-14 in the second quarter. Rex Grossman fumbled on the next play, the Colts recovered and eventually won 29-17.
6) Helped hold Calvin Johnson to four catches for 19 yards in the second half of 48-24 victory over the Lions in 2009 at Soldier Field — after Johnson had torched the Bears for five receptions for 119 yards in the first half. The Bears outscored the Lions 27-3 in the second half to break a 21-all tie.
7) Returned interceptions for a touchdown in back-to-back games against the Cowboys (25 yards) and Jaguars (26 yards) in 2012. Tillman and Lance Briggs became the first teammates in NFL history to have interception-return touchdowns in back-to-back games.
8) Blocked a Todd Sauerbrun punt that set up a short touchdown drive and intercepted a Jay Cutler pass intended for Brandon Marshall in the Bears’ 37-34 overtime victory against the Broncos in 2007 at Soldier Field.
9) Forced four fumbles in a 51-20 rout of the Tennessee Titans to give him seven in the Bears’ first eight games and bring national attention to the ‘‘Peanut Punch.’’
10) Blocked a punt that Corey Graham returned seven yards for a touchdown in a 35-7 rout of the Packers in 2007 at Soldier Field. After losing 16 of 18 games to the Packers through 2003, the Bears had won five of seven.
Two-point confusion? ‘We just didn’t get it done’
Though the Bears looked as though they had never even practiced a two-point conversion when they failed twice in the final seconds against the Lions on Sunday, they actually were 3-for-3 this season heading into the game. Jay Cutler completed passes to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in the mad dash against the Lions at Ford Field in Week 4. Matt Forte converted on a rush against the Saints.
But it all went haywire against the Lions at Soldier Field. In fact, almost incredulously, Jeffery and Marshall were on the sidelines for the first attempt when Josh McCown, under heavy pressure after rolling to his right, threw out of the end zone, presumably for tight end Dante Rosario.
Why were the Bears’ two best receivers not on the field for that play?
‘‘That doesn’t happen in the norm,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘You haven’t seen it ever happen. We just thought we had a play designed at that particular time to get it done. We had practiced it. We worked through it. We just didn’t get it done.
‘‘You’ve got to really like the play, obviously, to have them off the field, and it didn’t work out.’’
For the record, NFL teams are 14-for-31 on two-point conversions this season. Of the teams that have tried more than once, the Colts are 3-for-5; the Cowboys 1-for-3; the Cardinals 0-for-3; the Rams and Bills 2-for-2; the Jaguars and Redskins 0-for-2.
Lovie might benefit from Rivera’s run
Oh, the irony. Could Ron Rivera help Lovie Smith get another chance at an NFL head coaching job?
After being fired by the Bears after last season, Smith found himself swimming against the tide in an attempt to quickly land another head coaching job; seven of the eight hires last year were coaches with offensive backgrounds.
Trends are hard to break in the NFL, so it didn’t bode well for Smith that Eagles coach Andy Reid (offensive background) has turned the Chiefs around while recent defensive hires Greg Schiano (Buccaneers), Gus Bradley (Jaguars) and Leslie Frazier (Vikings) have struggled.
But Rivera, who was fired by Smith as the Bears’ defensive coordinator after the 2006 Super Bowl season, is helping change the perception with the resurgent Carolina Panthers. After a 1-3 start, the Panthers have won five straight, including a 10-9 win over the 49ers at Candlestick Park on Sunday.
Smith figures to get a second chance regardless of whether that turnaround continues. But it sure wouldn’t hurt his cause to root for Rivera.