Three Bears players who know a little something about performing at an elite level are witnessing something from one of their teammates that they've never seen before.
Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher—who have been voted to a combined 22 Pro Bowls—are amazed by what cornerback Charles Tillman has accomplished this season.
|Cornerback Charles Tillman has returned two interceptions for touchdowns and forced seven fumbles this season.|
In addition, Tillman was named NFC defensive player of the month for October after returning interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back road wins in Dallas and Jacksonville.
"We are all seeing history being made," Briggs said. "I've never seen anybody who's been able to do the things he's able to do, and to do it so consistently. Right now I can tell you he is the defensive player of the year. Hands down right now there is no one playing better than him."
Tillman's 36 forced fumbles since 2003 are second among all NFL players only to Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, who has 38. Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is tied for sixth with 31. Among the top 12 on the list, Tillman is the lone defensive back.
"It's different because most of mine come from the blind side of the quarterback and getting strips that way," Peppers said. "He does it while the guy is looking at him and trying to run him over. He does it in a different way, so I think it makes it a little more impressive on his part because I do it from the backside and the guy doesn't see me coming."
Urlacher concurred when asked about Tillman's performance in Sunday's blowout win.
"I've never seen anything like that," Urlacher said. "A d-lineman I can understand [forcing fumbles by] getting sacks. But as a corner to get four like that, it's unbelievable."
What makes it even more unbelievable is that the Titans had prepared for Tillman to strip the ball.
"What our coaches talked about all week was that these guys were No. 1 in the league in taking the ball away," said Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. "This is what they do. In particular, the coaches talked about Charles Tillman on how he does a great job of getting the ball out.
"We talked about it. Every time I've played the Bears we talk about it. They are very good at it. I don't think I've ever seen them do such an amazing job of getting the ball out."
Tillman created the first of five Bears takeaways on the game's first play from scrimmage when he punched the ball away from Titans receiver Kenny Britt following a 23-yard reception.
"Charles Tillman set the tempo," coach Lovie Smith said Monday. "We could talk the rest of the day about Charles and what he's done before this game, during this game, and at practice taking the ball away. He's got a special talent doing that."
Tillman forced four different Titans to fumble, later victimizing running back Chris Johnson and tight ends Craig Stevens and Jared Cook. The Bears recovered three of the four fumbles.
"The coaches tipped us good on how well they force turnovers," Johnson said. "It is just a situation where they made some good plays. They are very good at what they do about getting the ball out.
"[Tillman] just finds a way of getting his hands on the ball and knocking the ball out and always being around the ball. I guess you can say he hustles a lot, but he does a good job of finding the ball."
No one is more impressed with Tillman's ability to force fumbles than his coach.
"I'm like everyone else; I'm amazed too," Smith said. "And not just that he was able to knock the ball out, but it seemed like just about every time a running back or anyone with the ball comes there he's going to get a punch on it. For the rest of our team, everyone talks about stripping the ball or taking the ball away. But when they have a chance to see the best of all time doing it play after play, you want to join in on that."