Tillman kept Lions' Johnson in check

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
12:51
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AP Photo/Kiichiro SatoBears cornerback Charles Tillman breaks up a pass intended for the Lions' Calvin Johnson.
CHICAGO -- Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson stumbled for an answer when asked why Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall performed and he didn’t in the Bears’ 13-7 win at Soldier Field on Monday.

Marshall caught six of the 10 passes thrown his way and produced 81 yards and a touchdown. Johnson was targeted 11 times and had three receptions for 34 yards and no touchdowns.

Much like he did during the game, Johnson seemed to misfire with his response.

“It is what it is,” said Johnson, who in his first nine games against the Bears had averaged five receptions for 110.6 yards and scored four touchdowns. “You know? That’s all I can say about that.”


Johnson’s performance was his worst of the season. He didn’t make his first catch of the game until the third quarter and was held to three receptions and less than 30 yards for the first time since Dec. 11, 2011 against the Minnesota Vikings. Johnson had three receptions in two games last season.

A lack of touchdowns has also become a trend for Johnson this season. Monday was fifth time in six games he didn’t score in 2012. He reached the end zone 16 times during the 2011 regular season.
Johnson, who blamed himself and credited the Bears for his woes, personally felt his best opportunity slipped through his hands on the second pass thrown to him in the first quarter.

“I had that drop early,” said Johnson, who has 35 receptions for 558 yards and one touchdown on the year. “I turned my hip and tried to run with it before I caught it. I had a lot of running space on that one. I took that one away from myself. … Like I said, you got to roll with the punches.”

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was responsible for most of Johnson’s problems otherwise, and Johnson and Lions coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged that.

“He’s good,” Johnson said. “We play him twice a year, so they see a lot of stuff that we do whether it be our concepts or anything like that. You got to try to mix it up on guys like this. One, they’re veterans. It’s a tough defense. Their wide is wide, their deep is deepest, and they’re going to make you earn it.”

Schwartz said, “I thought (Tillman) matched Calvin pretty much the whole game, and they did a good job. And they combined that coverage with pass rush, threw our timing off.”

Tillman didn’t make himself available after the game, but Bears coach Lovie Smith and his teammates praised his play.

“I don’t even know how he does it,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “I mean Calvin Johnson is a big, big-time receiver. Peanut is a big-time corner. I don’t know he does it, but I’m glad he does. Glad he plays for us.”

Smith said, “Calvin is one of the best players in the league. It’s hard for Detroit to win games without him being productive. That’s why you need a guy like Charles Tillman that can match up on him and it made them go and look at other ways to get the ball down the field. That’s going to lead us to win most of the time if we can get that effort out of Charles.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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