The Bears defense shut down All-World wide receiver Calvin Johnson by assigning cornerback Charles Tillman to cover him from the time he laced up his shoes. Johnson caught just three of the 11 passes thrown to him, due to a combination of pass rush, help from solid play at safety and a nickel defense tandem of D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden.
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I dont know how he does it, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, shaking his head. I mean, Calvin Johnson is a big-, big-time receiver. Peanut is a big-time corner. I dont know how he does it but Im glad he does, glad he plays for us.
So, if Johnson is known league-wide as Megatron, does that make Tillman, with his Peanut nickname, MegaNut?
Tillman was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. On the heels of his consecutive-game interception returns for touchdowns, Tillman virtually locked up his second on the national stage of Monday Night Football.
Against Johnson, one of the wideout standards in the NFL. Tillman also forced two fumbles.
The performance is consist with all the ones since his well-remembered ripping of the ball away from Randy Moss, when Tillman was an upstart rookie and offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the Minnesota Vikings head coach.
Bears coaches used 5-9 Moore as their base nickel back but went to Hayden, taller at 6-feet and 15 pounds heavier, for some man-to-man matchups when Johnson was moved inside to the slot.
But the heavy lifting was Tillman, the prototype big cornerback sought by every team for matchups like Johnson.
I think credit has to go to Tillman, said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. He matched Calvin pretty much the whole game and they did a good job and combined that with pass rush. It threw our timing off.
MegaNut can do that.
As I mentioned Monday on Chicago Tribune Live, if the NFC playoffs started today, three NFC North teams would be in the draw.
Besides the Bears, the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) are tied for the third-best record in the conference, and the Green Bay Packers (4-3) would hold an edge in a three-way tiebreaker with Arizona and Seattle by virtue of a better conference record.
More to the point, although nothing really matters historically as far as a current season, but this marks the eighth time since the 1970 merger of AFL and NFL that the Bears have started a season 5-1 or better. They reached the playoffs in all of the previous seven (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2001, 2006).
In two of those they reached the Super Bowl.