WBEZ | Charles Tillman http://www.wbez.org/tags/charles-tillman Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Bears are looking good – so far http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-11/bears-are-looking-good-%E2%80%93-so-far-103743 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_bears_helmet.jpg" style="height: 406px; width: 620px;" title="The first half has been successful; the second half will be tough.(AP Photo/Joe Howell)" /></div><p>The Chicago Bears have eight down and eight left &mdash; games that is. With a 7 and 1 record the Bears are enjoying their view from the top of the NFC North. Here&#39;s what&#39;s working and what is down the road.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>It&#39;s the &quot;D&quot;&nbsp;</strong></p><p>When the season opened in September the feeling was the Bears aging defense would have to be bolstered by the somewhat revamped offense: Urlacher was coming off knee surgery, Tim Jennings was almost an ex-Bear after his 2012 performance, the safeties were questionable and Tillman, Briggs, Urlacher and Peppers have years of wear and tear on their collective bodies.&nbsp;</p><p>This Bears unit has played at a very high level; Jennings leads the league with six interceptions, Urlacher is not what he was, but is still contributing, Peppers is the glue to the defensive line and is doubled-team on nearly every play. That frees up the rest of the line to pressure the quarterback; Briggs and the rest of the defense dominate against opposing running backs and Tillman is having a monster season<strong>.</strong> His forced fumbles and his ability to cover receivers are a challenge for all the offensive coordinators in the league.&nbsp;</p><p>The defensive line rotation allows for rest and using players&#39; strengths &mdash;&nbsp;Stephen Paea, Henry Melton, Israel Idonije, Wooten and Peppers are making huge contributions. Rookie Shea McClellin has fared well on passing downs. With the line&#39;s play, it has enabled the Bears safeties the space to play the &quot;Tampa 2&quot; defense and make adjustments when needed.</p><p>Already this season the Bears have grabbed NFC defensive player honors, Jennings for September, Tillman for October and Urlacher defensive player for this past week.</p><p>This Bears defense is a feared group right now and they will be tested on Sunday against the Houston Texans.</p><p><strong>Bears &quot;O&quot; not quite there yet</strong></p><p>It&#39;s hard to imagine the Bears have a receiver actually playing at the level of his capability, but that is exactly what Brandon Marshall is doing. What an absolute steal by General Manager Phil Emery for two third-round draft picks. The rapport between Marshall and his QB Jay Cutler is elevating each and every game. Cutler is still dealing with an offensive line that has many issues, although Lance Louis is really making big strides.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_tillman_strip.jpg" style="float: right; height: 178px; width: 300px;" title="Bears Charles Tillman has had a monster first half. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)" />The Bears are still making a concerted effort to get the ground game going for Matt Forte. Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery was a nice complement to Marshall until he broke his hand. His return may be in the next few weeks. The rest of the receivers, particularly, Devin Hester has struggled. Earl Bennett was hampered by injuries and has had some key receptions the past two games. The offense has not gotten on track to start the game, different story in the fourth quarter where Jay Cutler has a 135 passer rating that leads the NFL&nbsp;There is no doubt the chemistry between Cutler and Marshall has made them on of the best quarterback-receiver duos to be reckoned with in the league.&nbsp;</p><p>The Bears offense has been aided by the scoring defense, but they are looking for more balance.</p><p><strong>Special teams are always special</strong></p><p>Year in and year out, Coach Dave Toub continues to have this unit thrive.Their coverage has been outstanding and Robbie Gould is still one of the league&rsquo;s most reliable kickers. If there is a concern, it has been with Devin Hester. His role has switched from concentrating on returns to limited receiving plays, to more snaps on offense after Jeffrey&#39;s injury. Last Sunday it was important for Hester to have a punt return that almost scored. He needs success to build on.</p><p>Last week the punt block by Sherrick McManis was a big play that earned him NFC Special Team Player honors. Just before the season started the Bears dealt Tyler Clutts to Houston for McManis-sometimes a small deal pays off.</p><p><strong>What happens now?</strong></p><p>Houston on Sunday, followed by San Francisco the following week give the Bears two difficult opponents to start the second half. They also have four divisional games left on the schedule.</p><p>Health will be a factor &mdash; don&rsquo;t forget the Bears were 7-3 last year when Cutler&rsquo;s and Forte&rsquo;s injuries ruined playoff hopes.</p><p>The Bears do not want anything derailing their post-season chances. They have a strong opportunity to do something special &mdash; and they are half way there.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook <a href="http://&lt;http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame?fref=ts&gt;">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 09 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-11/bears-are-looking-good-%E2%80%93-so-far-103743 Bears orchestrate a great defensive win in Nashville http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-11/bears-orchestrate-great-defensive-win-nashville-103649 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_1jay-marshall_3_td_joe_howell%202.jpg" style="height: 474px; width: 620px; " title="Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall connected for three TDs. (AP/Joe Howell)" /></div><p>The Bears didn&rsquo;t fiddle around in their dismantling of the Tennessee Titans 51-20. The first quarter alone was a record setter for the franchise scoring 28 points, the defense overwhelmed their opponent - on the road. With half the season finished, this Bear team is now 7 and 1 and remains on top of the NFC North division.</p><p><strong>Stars of the game:</strong></p><p>-The spotlight of the game has shone the brightest on Charles Tillman. He led the Bears with nine tackles and forced four fumbles-<strong><em>four</em></strong> in one game.&nbsp; Three were recovered by his teammates, as Tillman continues to be relentless punching the ball out of the receivers&rsquo; hands. With his seven on the season and winning the &quot;NFC Player of the Month&quot; honor--Tillman has become a force to be reckoned with in the league. He has always had the skills; they were honed under the tutelage of Lovie Smith. Injuries at inopportune times have bothered him some seasons and several years when the Bears struggled with their pass rush and his cornerback play suffered the consequences. Now he is the toast of the NFL.</p><p>-The old-injured Bear that had some nice highlights was Brian Urlacher. He had a five tackles, forced a fumble and grabbed an interception from Titan&#39;s quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. Despite a knee that is not one hundred percent, Urlacher lumbered down the sidelines scoring on his pick. That touchdown was the seventh for the Bears defense this season, two away from the NFL record with half the season to play.</p><p>-Pro-Bowl running back Matt Forte had huge plays for big yards and plays with great results. In that impressive first quarter, Forte had an 8-yard touchdown run with the Bears offensive line forcing him over the goal line. Forte also scampered 47 yards on a screen play (they should do that more).&nbsp; In the second half, a 46 yard run by Forte was instrumental in a drive netting a 25 yard Robbie Gould field goal. Matt Forte had 12 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown for the game.</p><p>-Special teams deserve a nod too, after a Wildcat play that featured two players from Northwestern. In the first quarter, Sherrick McManis blocked a punt and his former college teammate Corey Wooten scored a special teams&rsquo; touchdown.</p><p>Devin Hester was oh-so-close to scoring on a punt return; Tennessee resorted to a &quot;horse-collar&quot; penalty in stopping the league&#39;s best return man from getting into the end zone. The Bears are hoping Hester will become more of an impact with his returning skills as the season continues.</p><p>When Brandon Marshall dwarfs the man covering him, it is a total mismatch. Bears QB Jay Cutler took advantage of his favorite receiver&rsquo;s height and they connected for three touchdowns, the most ever in a game for Marshall. For the fourth time this year, he went over a hundred yards-Marshall had 122 yards on nine receptions to be exact.</p><p>Cutler was efficient going 19 of 26 for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns; his one blemish was the fumble during a sack.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Work in progress:</strong></p><p>-It is hard to nit-pick when a team scores 51 points, but the schedule is heading to a more elevated level opponent. Yes, the Bears defense sets the tone and it has spilled over to aid the offense. However, the Bears offense continues to struggle at times; the win will overshadow the spotty play by the offensive line. Dumb penalties have to be corrected; they continue to have false starts. They have to protect Cutler. It is very hard to see the offensive line use &ldquo;max&rdquo; protection (extra help) and it is not enough to help.</p><p><strong>Finally:</strong></p><p>-One of the greatest positives for a big win, the starters were able to get off the field and the back-ups got to see action. With the back-ups, the Tennessee had their only big offensive play when Chris Johnson ran for an 80-yard touchdown, it hurt the overall numbers-not the outcome.</p><p>As the game concluded, there were smiles on all the Bears, even stoic Lovie Smith was grinning. The team will enjoy the game for a day or two and then it will be preparing to host a very talented AFC team from Houston next Sunday night. That is going to be great match-up.</p></p> Sun, 04 Nov 2012 18:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-11/bears-orchestrate-great-defensive-win-nashville-103649