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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls trade Gibson, McDermott; Blackhawks beat Coyotes

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.