Notes: New nickname for Tillman; Bears playoff bound?

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Notes: New nickname for Tillman; Bears playoff bound?

Mega-Nut?

The Bears defense shut down All-World wide receiver Calvin Johnson by assigning cornerback Charles Tillman to cover him from the time he laced up his shoes. Johnson caught just three of the 11 passes thrown to him, due to a combination of pass rush, help from solid play at safety and a nickel defense tandem of D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden.

And Tillman.

I dont know how he does it, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, shaking his head. I mean, Calvin Johnson is a big-, big-time receiver. Peanut is a big-time corner. I dont know how he does it but Im glad he does, glad he plays for us.

So, if Johnson is known league-wide as Megatron, does that make Tillman, with his Peanut nickname, MegaNut?

Tillman was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. On the heels of his consecutive-game interception returns for touchdowns, Tillman virtually locked up his second on the national stage of Monday Night Football.

Against Johnson, one of the wideout standards in the NFL. Tillman also forced two fumbles.

The performance is consist with all the ones since his well-remembered ripping of the ball away from Randy Moss, when Tillman was an upstart rookie and offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the Minnesota Vikings head coach.

Bears coaches used 5-9 Moore as their base nickel back but went to Hayden, taller at 6-feet and 15 pounds heavier, for some man-to-man matchups when Johnson was moved inside to the slot.

But the heavy lifting was Tillman, the prototype big cornerback sought by every team for matchups like Johnson.

I think credit has to go to Tillman, said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. He matched Calvin pretty much the whole game and they did a good job and combined that with pass rush. It threw our timing off.

MegaNut can do that.

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

As I mentioned Monday on Chicago Tribune Live, if the NFC playoffs started today, three NFC North teams would be in the draw.

Besides the Bears, the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) are tied for the third-best record in the conference, and the Green Bay Packers (4-3) would hold an edge in a three-way tiebreaker with Arizona and Seattle by virtue of a better conference record.

More to the point, although nothing really matters historically as far as a current season, but this marks the eighth time since the 1970 merger of AFL and NFL that the Bears have started a season 5-1 or better. They reached the playoffs in all of the previous seven (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2001, 2006).

In two of those they reached the Super Bowl.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fremd senior Grace Tworek. 

Tworek has led the Vikings on and off the court this season. Last week, the Harvard commit put up a career-high 29 points in a win over Wheeling. 

Learn more about Tworek's success in the video above.