AL HAMNIK: Tillman ready for rough ride through Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood

2013-11-02T17:30:00Z 2013-11-05T22:18:13Z AL HAMNIK: Tillman ready for rough ride through Mr. Rodgers' neighborhoodAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
November 02, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

LAKE FOREST | Strolling through the Bears locker room Saturday, the first thing I noticed was an echo. When you're losing, few players feel like talking to media.

And the Bears are losing, three of their last four, heading into Monday night's game in Green Bay.

Few give the Bears any chance of winning.

The Packers have the game's No. 1 quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and can score at will. The Bears' defense is ranked 27th overall, 24th against the run and 27th against the pass.

You do the math.

One player in a talking mood Saturday was veteran cornerback Charles Tillman, who used the team's 15-day layoff to rest his inflamed knee. Tillman won't sugar-coat the Bears' win-or-else dilemma. He's always been transparent as cellophane.

Face the facts: Green Bay and Detroit are 1-2 in the NFC North, with Chicago choking on their dust.

To make matters worse, the pass-happy Packers have discovered a running game, their 141.4-yard average third best in the NFL.

"Pick your poison," Tillman said. "They're throwing the ball pretty good and running the ball pretty good.

"So as a defense that's been struggling, this is a good game to showcase what we were focusing on during our two weeks off."

The "D" is depleted by injury, but Tillman says the real culprit has been a lack of fundamentals, not that fans want to hear that blarney week after week.

"The coaches can only be blamed so much. Some of that blame has to go on the players," Tillman said. "I take full responsibility for my not playing well. I'm sure (Julius) Peppers takes it for his and Lance (Briggs) for his.

"The plays we're supposed to make, we're not taking advantage of the opportunities."

Briggs is out with a shoulder injury and Peppers, with 11 tackles and one sack, may as well be inactive.

Saturday, Peppers left Halas Hall without speaking to reporters. What else could he say that coach Marc Trestman hadn't said all week?

The defense needs to step up, and quickly. A sense of urgency has settled in at 1920 Football Drive.

The Bears have a league-low nine sacks and that number isn't likely to increase dramatically against Rodgers, whose 110.7 career passer rating against NFC North opponents includes 64 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions.

"Hell, every pass he throws is tough to defend," Tillman said. "He's got a lot of precision in his arm. Shoot, he's the best at a lot of throws."

Now in his 11th season, Tillman also is among the best at what he does — 36 career picks, including eight for touchdowns — when he is healthy. Underline healthy.

This season, you name the injury and he's had it.

"I feel 10 times better than I did before the layoff," Tillman said.

Asked his opinion of few fans believing the Bears have a prayer Monday night, Tillman was cool and direct.

"Everyone has their own opinion and I'm OK with it," he said. "We obviously must've given them reason to think that, so until we start to make some plays and win games, maybe then we turn some heads.

"I don't know."

Somehow, I don't sense that warm, fuzzy feeling of self-confidence.

That can't be good.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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