December 26th, 2012
Cornerback Charles Tillman returned an interception for a touchdown for the third time this season and broke another Bears record in last Sunday’s 28-13 victory over the Cardinals in Arizona.
With the Bears leading 21-6 early in the third quarter, Tillman picked off a Ryan Lindley pass intended for wide receiver Andre Roberts and brought it back 10 yards for a score.
In early October, Tillman scored touchdowns on interception returns of 25 and 36 yards in back-to-back wins in Dallas and Jacksonville, earning NFC defensive player of the month honors.
“Man, that guy is amazing,” cornerback Tim Jennings said following the Bears’ win in Arizona. “He has a knack for the ball. It seems like every time he gets his hands on it, he’s scoring with it. Any time you get that kind of a play out of him, it’s always a good feeling. Any time that we get a pick-six, that gives us a good chance of winning.”
Since 2005, the Bears are 21-2 when scoring a defensive touchdown, including 6-0 this season.
With the ninth defensive touchdown of his career, Tillman extended his Bears’ all-time record. Former safety Mike Brown is second with seven, followed by linebacker Lance Briggs with six.
Tillman’s touchdown in Arizona was the ninth by the Bears defense this season, tying the 1961 Chargers for the second most in NFL history behind the 1998 Seahawks, who had 10.
Tillman’s score came after fellow cornerback Zackary Bowman had returned a Beanie Wells fumble one yard for a touchdown, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After returning seven interceptions for touchdowns in a six-game span earlier this season, the Bears defense hadn't scored a TD in its previous six contests before last Sunday.
“Defensively, we asked them to take over and play the way we played early,” said Bears coach Lovie Smith. “Taking the ball away specifically is what I’m talking about. It was an added bonus getting a couple of scores.”
Tillman also set the Bears record for most interceptions by a cornerback with 33, snapping a tie with Donnell Woolford. Tillman is third overall in team history behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
In addition to the three interceptions he’s returned for touchdowns this season, Tillman has 10 forced fumbles, tied for the most by an NFL player since the stat started being tracked in 1991. His 39 forced fumbles since he entered the NFL in 2003 are the most by any player. Tillman also ranks second on the Bears with 89 tackles.
“He’s an incredibly talented player,” said Bears defensive end Israel Idonije. “He’s just one of those guys that every day comes to work. He really lives what this defense is based on: effort, hustle and taking the ball away.
“He does it every day. He knocks out the ball every practice. Whenever you need a big play, you can count that he is going to be one of those guys to step up and make a play.”
Heading into last Sunday’s game in Arizona, the Cardinals were wary of Tillman’s ability to punch the ball away from opponents.
“Tillman can definitely teach an instructional tape on how to force turnovers,” said Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“It reminds me of one of my college teammates, Tyrann Mathieu,” said Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson. “There are guys who have a knack for getting the ball in certain situations. I believe it’s a gift. I try to strip the ball out each and every time and it never comes out for me. It’s a God-given gift that those guys get the ball out when they want.”