Bears mates marvel at Charles Tillman’s season: ‘We are all seeing history being made’
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org November 7, 2012 12:12PM
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A After being named the Player of the Month for October, Charles Tillman was even better Sunday, with 4 forced fumbles to spark the rout. Chris Conte had 3 pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
HOW PEANUT MATCHES UP
A comparison of Bears cornerback Charles Tillman with other notable corners of this era:
GAMES TACKLES PASS DEFENSE INT/ YARDS TDs FF
CHARLES TILLMAN 137 755 101 32/ 596 7 32
Charles Woodson 206 719 119 55/ 896 11 24
Ronde Barber 232 952 134 46/ 895 8 13
Darrelle Revis 79 294 98 19/ 364 3 3
Nnamdi Asomugha 145 373 66 15/ 79 1 2
Champ Bailey 201 730 134 50/446 4 7
Antoine Winfield 183 931 84 26/228 2 14
All stats heading into Sunday
Updated: December 6, 2012 6:20AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli preach to defensive players not to set limits, always strive to force a turnover and score.
But amid the elation in the visitors’ locker room at LP Field on Sunday, Bears players marveled at the play of one teammate in particular: Charles Tillman.
The veteran cornerback forced an astounding four fumbles against the Tennessee Titans, giving him a league-high seven for the season.
Julius Peppers: “It’s impressive, man. Never seen anything like it before. It’s one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen.”
Brandon Marshall: “It’s special to watch. I can’t really explain it.”
Seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs said Tillman should be the NFL’s Defensive MVP.
“I think we are all seeing history being made,” he said.
But that’s the thing about Tillman: Where does he fit historically?
He’s clearly the best cornerback in team history, but he never is mentioned among the elite at his position. Look no further than the Pro Bowl, in which he has appeared just once, after his standout 2011 season.
Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos, Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers and Nnamdi Asomugha of the Philadelphia Eagles often are viewed as the cream of the cornerback crop.
Tillman often is knocked for being a “cover-2” corner, a role that relies less on 1-on-1 coverage than on tackling and re-directing. Even in that category, Ronde Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is considered No. 1.
Not that Tillman cares.
“I’m confident in my technique, my team, my talent,” Tillman said last week. “When it’s all said and done, you can put my stats with other corners in the league, and it’ll hold true. I can be in the same sentence.”
But one of the architects of the Bears’ scheme insisted that Tillman could thrive in any defense, although he’s ideally suited to play for Smith.
“[Tillman] isn’t a blazer, a 4.3 guy [in the 40-yard dash],” said Tony Dungy, who hired Smith with the Bucs and helped the Indianapolis Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. “He’s not the guy who looks fluid and all that. But he can come up and make tackles on third-and-one, strip the ball from people and make plays down the field. To me, he’s the perfect corner.”
Woodson, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, is held in high regard for his 55 interceptions and 11 touchdown returns. Bailey has a cornerback record with 11 Pro Bowl selections among his share of gaudy stats, and Barber is a skilled blitzer with 28 sacks.
But Tillman blows away other defensive backs — even linebackers — with his forced fumbles.
The statistic hasn’t been tracked forever. But since 2003, Tillman is second in the NFL with 36, passing Peppers and Dwight Freeney of the Colts on Sunday.
“Most of mine come from the blind side of the quarterback,” Peppers said. “He does it while the guy is looking at him and trying to run him over. He does it in a different way so it makes it a little more impressive.”