Former cornerback Charles Tillman selects and discusses the most memorable play of his 12-year career with the Bears, a game-saving interception against the Minnesota Vikings late in his rookie season in 2003.
When Charles Tillman lined up across from Vikings star receiver Randy Moss late in a Dec. 14, 2003 game at Soldier Field, the Bears cornerback knew exactly where quarterback Daunte Culpepper was going to throw the ball.
"There were no other receivers on my side," Tillman told ChicagoBears.com this week. "You'd have to be an idiot to think [Moss] was not getting the ball. I knew he was getting the ball. Everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball."
With the Bears clinging to a precarious 13-10 lead, the Vikings faced second-and-goal from the 10 with just over one minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Moss was the NFL's most prolific receiver at the time, having already surpassed 1,200 yards for the sixth straight year to start his career. The future Hall of Famer would end the season with a career-high 1,632 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdown receptions.
Although Tillman was a promising, yet generally unheralded rookie second-round pick from tiny Louisiana-Lafayette, he was not intimidated by Moss.
"I had the mindset that no matter what happens, I'm taking this ball," Tillman said. "He's not going to be on SportsCenter's Top 10. I'm getting this ball."
Culpepper took a three-step drop and rifled a pass into the end zone to Moss, who got both of his hands on the ball before Tillman deftly ripped it away for a highlight-reel interception with 1:02 to play, preserving a 13-10 win.
"Randy Moss actually caught the ball," Tillman said. "His hand-eye coordination is amazing. He had the ball first. He had two hands on it and I just had one. I tried to wrestle the ball away and really be aggressive with my approach and I came down with it. It was like, 'Holy [expletive], I caught the ball, yeah, I did catch the ball!'"
The impressive interception didn't just lift the Bears to a memorable win over the division-leading Vikings. It also endeared Tillman to his veteran teammates.
"I'll never forget [safety] Mike Brown gave me the biggest hug," Tillman said. "He had the biggest smile on his face. I celebrated with him for a minute.
"Just looking at my teammates, they were like. 'This rookie, he came to play.' I think I earned a lot of respect from my teammates that day. I think they knew that I was OK, but then this kid from Louisiana-Lafayette, he might be pretty good for us. That was the best feeling for me, getting my teammates' respect."
Tillman battled Moss twice a season in 2003 and 2004 before the Vikings traded the star receiver to the Raiders in 2005. In a 24-14 win over Minnesota on Dec. 5, 2004 at Soldier Field, Tillman held Moss to four receptions for 31 yards. After one of Moss' catches, Tillman forced a fumble that was recovered by Bears safety Mike Green.
"You definitely got excited about games like that because at that time Moss was the MJ (Michael Jordan) of all receivers," Tillman said. "You could throw it 90 yards and there was a 90 percent chance he was going to come down with the ball. So I got geeked because I was tasked with covering him, following him around the field, and I liked that challenge. I just told myself, 'I'm not getting embarrassed today. I don't want to let my teammates down. I don't want to be that guy.' That's what the challenge was for me. It was just competition. He brought out the best in me as a player, truly he did. We had some great battles, we really did.
"For games like that, for receivers like that, mentally I would go to a dark place. I mentally prepared myself: 'You're not about to disrespect me, I'm not about to get embarrassed and I've got to take you somewhere you don't want to be.' You do it without being a jerk, but I played those mental games with myself to where I was just like, 'No, it's not happening today.'"
Take a look at the players with the most interceptions in Chicago Bears history.