The day started out with near perfect conditions as the Chicago Bears met the San Francisco 49ers at their new stadium in Santa Clara. Clear skies, packed house, star spangled banner. The stage was set for a clash of the titans. Historically, the Bears have underperformed in the city by the bay. They were going down that same path until they started on their improbable comeback.
The 2014 Bears are no stranger to adversity. They lost speedy and tall WR Marquess Wilson to a broken collarbone, in just the first week of training camp. They lost a home game to a feisty Buffalo Bills team, one that almost every sportswriter known to man had the Bears winning. In the process star Wide Receivers Brandon Marhsall and Alshon Jeffery both sustained injuries to their legs. They also lost Guard Matt Slaussen and Center Roberto Garza to ankle injuries.
The Bears found themselves quickly sinking in “quicksand” after a 3 and out, a blocked punt and a host of penalties. Down 17-0, with less than 2 minutes left, Jay Cutler took a pop to the chest that drew a penalty, and woke up the sleeping giant. He rallied a few plays later and threw a TD to Marshall, who made an amazing one handed grab in the end-zone.
San Francisco would receive the ball to open the 3rd quarter and drive 80 yards, taking up over 9 minutes of gametime. The embattled and battered Bears defense would hold the 49ers to just 3 points the entire second half. Late in that drive Bears veteran conerback Charles Tillman would be forced out with a triceps injury. The same injury that ended his season in 2013. His teammates rallied. I like to think they “won it for peanut”. The Bears got some amazing play down the stretch from just about the entire defense, including 2 picks from rookie CB Kyle Fuller and 2 sacks from DE Willie Young.
The writing is all but on the wall for the decorated veteran and stalwart community member, in Tillman. He is on a one year deal and the NFL is not kind to superstars later in their careers. Tillman, who almost left for sunny Tampa Bay in the offseason, opted to come back to Chicago and give it another shot at a championship.
If this was the last game for Charles “peanut” Tillman in a Bears jersey, I will be proud of the way they played. The toughness they displayed. The poise they showed, fighting through adversity. The stoic resolve embodied everything Tillman was as a Bear. From his rookie year when he took a sure touchdown away from Randy Moss, to his patented “Peanut Punch”, which caused 42 forced fumbles, to his Pro Bowl season in 2012, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this man play the game of football. I have nothing but gratitude, appreciation, and love for the player and more importantly–the man.
Charles Tillman came to the bears via 2nd round pick in 2003, selected by then GM Jerry Angelo. As a dedicated “draft geek”, I had no idea who the skinny CB from Louisiana-Lafayette was. We got quite used to Angelo drafting players a round or two ahead of when most scouts/prognosticators projected them to go. Once Tillman got on the field, all of that talk was quickly forgotten. It was clear Peanut had a real knack for making plays. One of his most infamous plays came in week 15 of his rookie season when he snatched a game winning TD away from All-Pro Randy Moss.
Over the years, Tillman would rack up a jaw-dropping 42 forced fumbles, 36 interceptions and shut down stellar Wide Receivers, including one of the top in Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Not many have played him better than Peanut. Tillman was just as much of a force in the community if not more. He has done many charitable events over the years and tackled adversity especially when his daughter was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Most Blackhawk’s fans know Tillman from his appearances as a season ticket holder. Tillman has been going to games well before the resurgence made it en vogue again.
I wish the absolute best for Charles Peanut Tillman, the man and the player who has won the admiration and respect from a city and hopefully anyone who was privileged to cross his path. I hope for the Bears, they extend whatever courtesy they can and find a position for him somewhere in the organization.
This article was written 9/16/14