Tillman's 33 interceptions by the number
April 3rd, 2013
Thirty-three has been a magical number for Charles Tillman throughout his career with the Bears.
Not only is it the jersey number he’s worn in all 10 of his NFL seasons, but it also represents the number of interceptions Tillman has recorded since arriving in 2003 as a second-round draft pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette. No other cornerback in Bears history has picked off more passes.
Tillman’s 33 interceptions have come against 16 teams and 26 quarterbacks in 15 stadiums located in 13 states. He has five picks against the Lions, four apiece versus the Packers and Vikings, three against the Rams, and two each versus the Broncos, Browns, Giants, Panthers and Patriots.
Interestingly, all five of his interceptions against the Lions have come against different quarterbacks: Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, Dan Orlovsky, Shaun Hill and Matthew Stafford.
Tillman has excelled against future Hall of Famers, recording three interceptions of Brett Favre and two apiece versus Tom Brady and Drew Brees. The Bears cornerback also has two interceptions against Eli Manning, Daunte Culpepper and Marc Bulger.
Other victims include Bears teammate Jay Cutler (in a 37-34 overtime win over the Broncos Nov. 25, 2007 at Soldier Field), ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer (in a 20-10 loss to the Browns Oct. 9, 2005 in Cleveland), and Tim Tebow (in a 13-10 overtime loss to the Broncos Dec. 11, 2011 in Denver).
The only two-interception game of Tillman’s career came on Nov. 26, 2006 when he picked off Brady twice in a 17-13 loss in New England. One of the two interceptions set up the Bears’ only touchdown, a two-yard run by Cedric Benson that tied the game 10-10 early in the fourth quarter.
Tillman has had 13 interceptions at Soldier Field and 20 on the road, with three at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and two apiece at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Tillman’s first four career interceptions came at home, while his last five have picks dating back to 2011 have been on the road. In 2006, 2008 and 2012, all 11 of his interceptions came on the road, while in 2007 and 2009, all five of his picks came at Soldier Field.
Tillman has intercepted passes in back-to-back games four times in his career: In 2003 against the Lions and Chargers; in 2005 versus the Browns and Vikings; in 2007 against the Broncos and Giants; and in 2012 versus the Cowboys and Jaguars.
The Bears are 25-7 when Tillman intercepts a pass in a game, including 13-2 since early in the 2008 season. He picked off passes in two NFC North Division-clinching wins, intercepting Favre on Dec. 25, 2005 in Green Bay and the Vikings’ Joe Webb on Dec. 20, 2010 in Minnesota.
Tillman owns the Bears’ all-time record with eight interception return touchdowns. After scoring three TDs on his first 27 picks, he has returned four straight and five of six for scores. In 2012, he brought back all three of his picks for TDs to fuel road wins in Dallas, Jacksonville and Arizona.
The Bears are 8-0 when Tillman returns an interception for a touchdown. His first career TD came Oct. 30, 2005 on a 22-yard interception return in overtime, lifting the Bears to a 19-13 win over the Lions in Detroit. He picked off Garcia’s ill-advised pass over the middle intended for receiver Mike Williams and cruised into the end zone untouched.
“[Garcia] was kind of off balance,” Tillman said after the game. “He tried to throw across his body and the ball was floating. I just stepped in front of [Williams] and took it. My eyes didn’t get big until I actually caught it and knew I was about to score.”
Tillman’s most impressive interception arguably came late in his rookie season in 2003. He preserved a 13-10 win over the Vikings by snatching a pass out of star receiver Randy Moss’ hands in the end zone with 1:02 remaining in the fourth quarter.
With Minnesota facing second-and-goal from the 10, Culpepper fired to Moss in the right corner of the end zone. The instant the ball arrived, Tillman ripped it away from the receiver.
“Every kid dreams of being in that situation and I was in it,” Tillman said after the game. “I just tried to take advantage of it. He had one hand on it, and then I just kind of yanked it out of his hand and that was pretty much it.”