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Breaking down Tillman's 39 forced fumbles
March 21st, 2013

There was little fanfare back on Sept. 7, 2003 when an unheralded rookie second-round draft pick generated a Bears takeaway by forcing 49ers punt returner Jimmy Williams to fumble.

After all, it was late in a season-opening 49-7 blowout loss in San Francisco, and Charles Tillman was appearing in his very first NFL game. No one knew it at the time, but the play the Louisiana Lafayette product made on special teams a decade ago was the start of something great.

Tillman has forced 39 fumbles in 10 seasons, the most by any player since he entered the league. His 10 forced fumbles in 2012 tied for the most in a single season since the NFL started tracking the stat in 1991. Tillman’s unique ability to knock the ball away from opponents spawned a “Peanut Punch” t-shirt and led to President Obama mentioning him by name during a TV interview.

Taking a closer look by the numbers, Tillman’s 39 forced fumbles have occurred as follows:
  • 35 on Sunday, two on Monday and two on Thursday
  • 11 in September, eight in October, nine in November and 11 in December
  • 25 on receptions, 12 on rushes, one on a sack and one on a punt return
  • In 12 different stadiums in 11 states
Tillman has forced 19 fumbles at Soldier Field and 20 on the road, with four apiece at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and LP Field in Nashville. He has forced fumbles from the east coast (Maryland) to the west coast (California), and from the north (Washington) to the south (Louisiana).

Tillman has forced six fumbles against the Packers, four versus the Titans and three apiece against the Eagles, Lions, Redskins, Seahawks and Vikings. The Bears are 2-3 when he has forced multiple fumbles in a game and 17-17 when he has forced one fumble.

Tillman forced a career-high four fumbles last season in a win over the Titans in Tennessee. His previous high was three in a 2009 loss to the Eagles at Soldier Field.

Tillman’s victims include 17 running backs, 13 wide receivers, six tight ends, and one quarterback, one fullback and one punt returner. They include future Hall of Famers (Brett Favre, Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison); NFL MVPs (Favre and Adrian Peterson); a future teammate (Roy Williams) and a former Bear (Marcus Robinson).

Of Tillman’s 39 forced fumbles, 23 have been recovered by the Bears for takeaways, 10 have been recovered by the fumbling team and six have bounced out of bounds. Sixteen different Bears have recovered a fumble, led by Tillman himself with three. Brian Urlacher also has three recoveries, while Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Adewale Ogunleye have two apiece.

The Bears have returned one of the forced fumbles for a touchdown, a 21-yarder by Briggs in a 29-13 win over the Colts in the 2008 season opener in Indianapolis. The other 22 recoveries by the Bears have resulted in five touchdowns, three field goals, seven punts, three turnovers, two missed field goals, one turnover on downs, and one kneel-down to preserve a victory.

Tillman has forced the same player to fumble twice in a game on three occasions. He forced Packers receiver James Jones to lose fumbles on back-to-back possessions in a 2007 win in Green Bay, and stripped Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew twice in three plays in last season’s home win over Detroit, with the ball rolling out of bounds both times.

Tillman also forced Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson to fumble twice in a 2009 loss to Philadelphia at Soldier Field. Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams recovered one, but the other went out of bounds.

One of Tillman’s two forced fumbles in a 2005 loss in Pittsburgh was initially ruled an incomplete pass. But the Steelers challenged the call because they had recovered the loose ball for a first down, and the referee reversed the play into a complete pass/fumble after a replay review.

Tillman’s only forced fumble on a sack came when he blasted Favre with a blindside hit in a 2005 win over the Packers at Soldier Field. The loose ball was recovered by Ogunleye. 


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