Teams with Super Bowl aspirations square-off on the lakefront Sunday night when the Chicago Bears (7-1) play host to the Houston Texans (7-1) at Soldier Field. Despite the Atlanta Falcons sporting the only unblemished mark in the NFL, Sunday night’s clash is considered by many to be a Super Bowl preview.
The meeting also serves as a showdown between the two leading candidates for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Texans defensive lineman, J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks on the season. Nicknamed J.J. “Swat”, he has also been credited with 10 pass deflections on the season.
The other candidate is the Bears defensive back Charles “Peanut” Tillman. Considered to be the teams best DB of all time, Tillman leads the NFL with seven forced fumbles on the season and has six pass deflections and two interceptions (both returned for Tds) to go along with 43 total tackles.
Tillman has locked down opposing teams top receivers most of the season, but may not get a chance to display his talents against the Texans and their top receiver Andre Johnson.
Wife Jackie is due to have the couple’s fourth baby any day and is expected to deliver by Monday. Tillman discussed the situation with 670 The Score’s Laurence Holmes.
“The wife is due any day so hopefully this baby can stay in until after the game on Sunday,” Tillman said. “If she comes Sunday, I think I am going to have to be at the hospital on Sunday.”
The baby, a girl, will be the couple’s fourth.
Since breaking into the NFL in 2003, Tillman leads all defensive backs with 36 forced fumbles. His signature move, if that’s what you what to call it, has been dubbed as the “Peanut Punch.”
Tillman was named to his first pro bowl last season and is enjoying a career type year this season. He was named the Defensive Player of the month for October and is coming off a week where he forced a career-high four fumbles in the Bears 51-20 rout of the Titans last week.
“I don’t think it’s difficult (the ball punch),” Tillman said after Sunday’s win. “It’s always on my mind. I speak it. I believe it. I practice it. It happens.”
The fascinating thing about Tillman with all the forced fumbles is opposing teams knows that is what he does. That is what the entire Bears defense does.
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, who has 37 career forced fumbles, summed it up the best.
“Most of mine come from the blind side of the quarterback,” Peppers said Sunday. “He does it while the guy is looking at him and trying to run him over.”
If another Tillman arrives on Sunday and the Peanut Punch is unable to go the Bears have plenty of depth at the position. Sherrick McManis, who was named the NFC Special Teams player of the week, will be a likely replacement.
As for going up against Watt and trying to shut down Johnson? Who knows, maybe he will get another chance in a couple months.
TRAVIS DAVID is a contributor for FOOTNALL NATION and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tdavid_21.