Ode to ‘The Nut’

| November 13th, 2011

He’s never gotten enough credit.

When folks write the history of the Lovie Smith era in Chicago, specifically on defense, the text will inevitably start with the men in the middle: Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.  They are the perennial All-Pros, the jersey sellers, the stars.  We’ll then slide perhaps to the high-price free agent acquisition Julius Peppers – a man who happens to be worth even more than the extravagant amount the Bears paid for him.  Then what?  A few dominant years from Tommie Harris in the middle, a revolving door at the safety position, big third down tackles by Alex Brown…etc.?

Yesterday, at Soldier Field, we saw the corner back performance of this /bears era era by the quintessential Lovie Smith defender.  Charles “Peanut” Tillman spent the majority of the afternoon locked up with the most impressive receiver in the sport, the man they call Megatron, and dominated him.  He did so not only within the structure of the traditional Lovie Deuce but also in one-on-one scenarios, spawned from the Lions going to three and four-wide sets.

Think about the role of the corner in this defense.  Usually in soft coverage, the corner must be able to make tackles and prevent the four-yard slant from becoming the twenty-yard backbreaker.  We know Lovie preaches turnovers thus the corner must know how to dislodge the football.  I would argue Peanut is among the finest tackling corners in the game and nobody, I mean nobody, is better at punching the ball out than Peanut.

Today I choose not to evaluate the ins and outs of the Bears victory over the Detroit Lions.  Today I choose to celebrate the man who has never received enough celebration.  Peanut, a corner nowhere near the top of any analyst’s list, beat the best in the business.  He stopped a man considered unstoppable.  For at least the next six days we are going to celebrate the time Charles Tillman has given to the organization we all love so dearly and celebrate the performance he delivered yesterday against Calvin Johnson.

Today is about Charles “Peanut” Tillman.  The Nut. The man who once ripped a game-winning TD pass from the hands of Randy Moss.  Today is about #33.  Outside of a fella named Revis in New Jersey, I don’t think there’s a corner I’d rather having wearing the navy and orange.