Today, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was named NFL Defensive Player of the Month for October. It was a month in which Tillman returned two interceptions for touchdowns, while also holding Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson – widely considered the best pass catcher in the league – to just three catches for 34 yards.
"I think it's pretty cool," Tillman said today. "Obviously the two times I got [touchdowns], I don't think I could have gotten them without the help of my teammates. The pick six against Dallas, Henry [Melton] made a good play, [Chris] Conte made a good play. Jacksonville, our D-line made the QB get rid of the ball. Got some great blocks by Lance [Briggs], by Brian [Urlacher]. So yeah, team effort I share with them."
Since joining the Bears as a second-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2003, Tillman has been the most consistently productive cornerback in the history of the franchise. Yet up until last season, he was overlooked yearly for NFL honors, including the Pro Bowl.
At 31 years old, people are finally starting to take notice.
"He's such a talented player," said Briggs. "I think for many years people have kind of taken it for granted. Some of the attention has gone to a lot of other cornerbacks but Peanut's consistency has always been there. I think right now it's great that more people are noticing it.
"His talent and what he's able to do, he's done some things in the NFL that no one has ever done before and people will try to mimic for years after."
For his part, Tillman hasn't worried about the lack of recognition.
"I don't care about the recognition. I don't care about the attention," said Tillman. "If I get it, whatever, I'll defer to someone else. We're a team defense. The star of our defense is our defense. You can ask anybody, all 11 guys, at any given time. We all make plays. It's not just me."
Also making plays is fellow cornerback Tim Jennings, who won NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September. It is only the second time Bears teammates have won the award in back to back months since it first started in 1986.
Jennings currently leads the league in interceptions (6), one of which was a pick six for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers last week. The Bears have returned six interceptions for touchdowns this year, the most in a single season in franchise history.
"It surprises me a lot because I've never been a part of something like this," said Jennings. "It's great to be a part of this. I'm surprised we're getting a lot of opportunities but we're making the best of it. It's just something that we work on every day at practice and it carries over to the game.
"It's kind of ingrained in our heads. Coach [Rod] Marinelli and the coaching staff do a great job of preaching about scoring with the ball every chance that we get. It's just that the offense is not the only part of the team that can put points on the board. We have a great defense and great special teams and it's tougher on our opponents when our defense can score as well."
Chicago's secondary held opposing quarterbacks to an NFL-low 61.9 passer rating in September. The outstanding play of the cornerbacks on the outside has a lot to do with that success. With the way Jennings and Tillman are playing, one could make a strong case that they are the best pair of starting cornerbacks in the league right now.
Although Tillman isn't yet ready to make that declaration.
"I don't know. We're only halfway through the season, and I definitely think there's room for improvement, not only with myself but with Tim," Tillman said. "The sky's the limit. I definitely think we can. But you don't get any awards for halfway through the season for being the best cornerback tandem. I definitely think there's potential for that.
"We just got to keep doing what we've been doing, making plays, covering receivers, creating turnovers, getting our offenses some good field position and scoring."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.