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Tillman talks about Cardinals game
December 24th, 2012

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyThe Bears returned to Arizona to play the Cardinals last Sunday for the first time since a miraculous 2006 win that remains one of the most memorable games of Charles Tillman’s 10-year NFL career.

Trailing 23-3 late in the third quarter, the Bears staged an amazing rally, scoring two touchdowns on defense and one on special teams to escape with a stunning 24-23 Monday night victory.

“That game was so special because of how we won it,” Tillman said. “When I think about teamwork, working together and trusting the guy next to you, that game comes to mind.

“We were down. We had played terrible on offense, defense and special teams, and we came back in the fourth quarter and took care of business. That game was successful because we took our individual effort and put it into a team effort toward one common goal.”

With the victory, the Bears improved to 6-0 en route to a 13-3 finish and the team’s first Super Bowl appearance since the 1985 season. It remains the only game in franchise history the Bears have won when trailing by at least 20 points in the second half.

They were down 20-0 at halftime when veteran center Olin Kreutz delivered some inspirational words to his teammates in the locker room.

“Everybody was fired up. Everybody was really jacked up,” Tillman said. “Olin Kreutz gave one of those Ray Lewis-type speeches saying, ‘We’re going to win this game, there’s no question. We’re going to line up and hit them in the mouth. We’re going to win, I promise you.’”

Rookie defensive end Mark Anderson ignited the comeback, forcing rookie quarterback Matt Leinart to fumble on a blindside sack. Safety Mike Brown scooped up the loose ball and returned it three yards for a touchdown, drawing the Bears to within 23-10 with :02 left in the third quarter.

Tillman then got involved, returning a fumble 40 yards for a TD to close the gap to 23-17 with 5:00 remaining in the fourth quarter. The takeaway was created by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who ripped the ball away from running back Edgerrin James.

“I was running to the ball, trying to get in on the tackle,” Tillman recalled. “But then I saw the ball on the ground, I picked it up and then was thinking, ‘No one’s chasing me. I’m going to score. I got a touchdown! My wife’s here, my daughter’s here.’ So that part was cool.”

Urlacher willed the Bears to the win, recording a career-high 25 tackles.

“I’ve never seen Brian Urlacher play like that,” Tillman said. “He was on another level. It was impressive to see. To be on the field and witness it up close in person, it was unbelievable.

“He was a machine. There was nothing they could do that he couldn’t match. He put the team on his back and he took over. That’s on that Michael Jordan level. We needed some plays and he put the team on his back and did his job and we followed that.”

Rookie Devin Hester produced the game-winning score with 2:58 to play, returning a punt 83 yards for a touchdown to put the Bears on top 24-23. It remains the only game the Bears have won after trailing by at least 20 points since 1987.

Asked what lesson he learned from the improbable win, Tillman said: “You’re never out of it. You’re always in the fight no matter what the score is. We took our defense and our team to another level that game. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.”

One of the more memorable aspects of the night was a post-game tirade by Cardinals coach Dennis Green, who slammed his fist down on a podium and bellowed, “The Bears are who we thought they were!” The rant was widely viewed on the Internet and later featured on a beer commercial.

“Looking back on it I think it was kind of funny,” Tillman said. “I’m sure when he was ranting after the game he didn’t think that it would get played over and over and over. It will probably go down as one of the greatest rants of all time by a coach.”