Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman couldn’t have been more impressed with his defensive teammates in last Sunday’s 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
“I really feel like we played a complete game and we were consistent throughout the game,” Tillman said after the Bears allowed their fewest points since a 28-13 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Dec, 23, 2012.
Tillman, who is out for the season with a torn triceps he suffered Sept. 14 in a win over the San Francisco 49ers, wasn’t the only key Bears defensive player watching from the sideline in street clothes. The team also played without its top four linebackers—Lance Briggs, Jonathan Bostic, Shea McClellin and D.J. Williams—all of whom were inactive due to injuries.
As a result, the Bears were forced to start three inexperienced linebackers, and Khaseem Greene (11), Darryl Sharpton (10) and Christian Jones (6) finished 1-2-3 on the team in tackles. While the trio stepped up when called upon, Tillman admitted he was a little apprehensive when he saw the inactive list before the game.
“I was nervous, I can’t lie to you,” Tillman said. “Like a lot of fans. But they all played awesome.”
The Bears didn’t know that Williams would be unable to play until the day before the game. He was replaced by Sharpton, who has only been with the team since Sept. 25.
“I’d probably say the unsung hero of the game was Darryl Sharpton,” Tillman said. “He had some key plays. I know he won’t get a stat for it, but he showed a lot of composure as far as being on a new team, being on a new defense and getting guys lined up and making the calls and getting the checks and things like that.
“It’s hard to do and I think he did a great job of getting guys lined up and he had some hard hits too, so I was very proud of him.”
Bears head coach Marc Trestman was also proud of the effort, which wouldn’t have been possible without defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and linebackers coach Reggie Herring.
“It starts with Mel and our defensive staff with Reggie Herring getting them ready,” Trestman said. “I think that the guys on the defensive line and the back end really wrapped their arms around those young linebackers.
“They played hard. They were in the right place. We asked them to just, ‘do your job’ and not do anything more than that. They played exceptionally hard. Our entire defense and coaching staff deserve a lot of credit. They worked together.”
Tillman was also impressed with the young player who has replaced him in the starting lineup, rookie Kyle Fuller. The first-round draft pick forced his third fumble of the season and broke up a pass intended for Falcons star receiver Julio Jones on third-and-one, forcing an Atlanta punt.
Fuller helped hold Jones, who had entered Week 6 leading the NFL with 552 receiving yards on 40 receptions, to four catches for 48 yards. In addition, Fuller is the first player since Brian Dawkins in 1999 to have three interceptions and three forced fumbles in the first six games of a season.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” Tillman said. “I really think he’s an up-and-coming rising star. One of the things I try to do when I play is be consistent and so far Kyle has been consistent, and that’s all you can ask for from a player.”
The defensive line also performed exceptionally well, generating all four of the Bears’ sacks with Willie Young recording two and Jared Allen and Stephen Paea registering one apiece.
“They always say it starts up front and I tip my hat to our defensive line,” Tillman said. “Everyone had an awesome game. They created havoc up front and hopefully we can keep that rolling.”