Can Bears' Tillman shut down Calvin Johnson again?
Calvin Johnson is congratulated by quarterback Matthew Stafford after he broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards last week.
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has been voted to two straight Pro Bowls after not being voted to eight in a row at the start of his NFL career.
Better late than never.
Tillman has been responsible for 15 takeaways this season, including 10 forced fumbles. Since forced fumbles became an official stat in 1991, no one has ever had more in a season. Tillman also has 3 interceptions, all of which he's returned for touchdowns.
The argument could be made that no one has done more for the Bears this season than Tillman. But one more thing is being asked of the 6-foot-2, 198-pound 31-year-old: Keep Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in the world, under wraps. That would go a long way toward keeping the Bears' playoff hopes alive.
There is no more important matchup than Tillman vs. the 6-5, 236-pound "Megatron," who last week established the new standard for receiving yards in a season and needs 108 more to hit 2,000.
In Week 7 against the Bears, Johnson had his worst game of season, catching just 3 passes for 34 yards with Tillman traveling with him wherever he lined up. But in his last eight games Johnson has 1,254 yards, an average of 157 per game.
Fortunately for the Bears, Tillman is as qualified as anyone to compete with Johnson.
"He's a good football player, start off with that," coach Lovie Smith said of Tillman. "Great size for a corner, great ball skills. He's a competitor as much as anything, and that's what you have to be. You can have talent, but you just have to be willing to play every snap.
"You can't let down for a play against a great player like Calvin Johnson, and I think the good players look forward to that challenge. He's as good as there is."
The situation at running back could be a bit dicey Sunday considering Matt Forte will be playing on a right ankle that has been sprained three times this season, including six days ago.
Backup Armando Allen (knee) has not practiced all week, and is listed as "questionable," leaving Kahlil Bell, who has been cut twice this year, as the only healthy running back on the 53-man roster. Second-year running back Harvey Unga is on the practice squad for now.
Forte, who needs 9 yards to reach 1,000 for the third time, has been doing everything he knows of to speed the healing process.
"Getting needles stuck in my Achilles and ankle, acupuncture-type stuff, chiropractic stuff, soft-tissue work, hyperbaric chamber, same stuff (as before)," Forte said. "It seems to work better. I think since I sprained it the first time (in Week 2), it's gotten all the way healed, so it's not a lot more damaged than the first time."
Forte has only missed one full game (Week 3), but he's grown accustomed to playing at less than 100 percent, and he knows he's always susceptible to injury at his position.
"I know it's going to be painful, especially when you get tackled and hit on," he said. "It'll be just like the Dallas game (Week 4), when I got hit on the first play and I just had to get retaped."
(Additional) injury report:
Linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis for the first time since he was injured on Dec. 2 but is listed as "doubtful" for Sunday's game and is not expected to play.
Cornerbacks Charles Tillman (ribs/elbow) and Tim Jennings (shoulder) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (hamstring) all went through a full practice and are probable.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton (clavicle) also was a full participant but is questionable. Safety Chris Conte (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Costanzo (calf) are out.
For the Lions, defensive tackle Sammie Hill (toe) is out, tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) is doubtful and safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (hamstring) are questionable.
In order to make the playoffs, the Bears need to win Sunday at noon and have the Packers defeat the Vikings in a 3:25 p.m. game.
But it'll still be difficult for Packers-hater Brandon Marshall to cheer for Green Bay.
"I'm not cheering for anybody but the Bears," the wide receiver said. "That's how it is. We put ourselves in this position, and it could be a good position. All we can do is beat Detroit and sit back and have a cup of coffee and see what happens at that afternoon game."
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