Tillman voted to Pro Bowl for second straight season
December 28th, 2012
Charles Tillman was rewarded for his outstanding 2012 season this week when he became the first cornerback in Bears history to be selected to back-to-back Pro Bowls.
Having turned the “Peanut Punch” into an art form, Tillman leads the NFL with a career-high 10 forced fumbles this season, tied for the most since the league began tracking the statistic in 1991. In the process, Tillman has increased his career total to 39, the most by any player since he entered the league in 2003.
“Peanut is really revolutionizing the game the way he plays it,” said Bears linebacker and longtime teammate Lance Briggs. “I know there are a lot of high school and Pee Wee coaches that are changing the way they coach defense because of him.”
“He’s off the charts,” said Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who has coached in the NFL since 1996. “I’ve said that now for three years really. There’s nobody in the history of the league who can pull the ball out like he does, nobody. He’s really a takeaway machine. He’s special.”
Tillman has also returned all three of his interceptions for touchdowns this season, setting all-time Bears records for defensive TDs with nine and interceptions by a cornerback with 33, the third most overall in franchise history behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
“We have a big play board and Charles has had the record for the last nine years or so,” said coach Lovie Smith. “He set the pace with 13, and we have a formula that we use to be able to get that 13 number. He’s at 21 already with a game to go in the season, just big play after big play.
“I couldn’t tell you how valuable he is to our team and what he’s done. I keep hearing about how old he is, over-the-hill gang and all of that, but he’s had another career year.”
Tillman was named NFC defensive player of the month for October after helping lead the Bears to a 4-0 record by returning two interceptions for touchdowns and limiting Lions Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson to three receptions for a season-low 34 yards.
Tillman’s touchdowns came on returns of 25 yards in Dallas and 36 yards in Jacksonville in back-to-back games, earning him NFC defensive player of the week honors after both contests.
Asked why Tillman has been so successful against Johnson, considered by many to be the NFL’s best receiver, Smith said: “He’s a good football player; start off with that. He has great size for a corner and great ball skills. He’s a competitor as much as anything, and that’s what you have to be.
“You can have talent, but you just have to be willing to play every snap. You can’t let down for a play against a great player like Calvin Johnson. I think the good players look forward to that challenge, and [Johnson] is as good as there is.”
Tillman was one of five Bears voted to the Pro Bowl, all as starters. The others were cornerback Tim Jennings, receiver Brandon Marshall, defensive tackle Henry Melton and defensive end Julius Peppers.
Tillman and Jennings are the first cornerbacks from the same team voted to start in the Pro Bowl since Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield of the Cleveland Browns in 1988.
“That’s one of the special moments that Charles and I can go over there and be teammates, starting corners,” Jennings said. “He’s done a lot for me while I was here.”
Tillman was voted to his first Pro Bowl last season when he recorded a career-high 113 tackles, returned two of three interceptions for touchdowns, and forced four fumbles.
“I thought he should have gotten in years ago, but I’m happy for him,” Briggs said. “Timing sometimes is everything and I know that Peanut is cherishing these moments. I’m proud of him, proud of the work that he’s done and the portfolio he’s put together for his career.”