Lance Briggs (from left), Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher (Phil Velasquez/Chicago…)
The Bears' Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs recently became the first teammates in NFL history to return interceptions for touchdowns during the same game in consecutive weeks. A surprise for the record books maybe, but these two have been playing "Can You Top This?" since they entered the league together in the 2003 draft. If one day they stand at Soldier Field in a dual-number-retirement ceremony, these highlights surely will be mentioned.
2003: Seeds of greatness
Dec. 7: Packers 34, Bears 21
Dec. 14: Bears 13, Vikings 10
Neither Tillman nor Briggs was a Week 1 rookie starter, but by Week 5, both had assumed the posts they would soon occupy for a decade. The Bears were a feisty 5-7 entering December when they played at Green Bay. Tillman and Briggs were the Bears' leading tacklers, and Briggs bagged the pair's first defensive touchdown with a 45-yard interception return. A week later, Tillman's legend grew when he sealed a 13-10 win over the Vikings with The Randy Moss Pick, an interception in the end zone in which Peanut snatched a sure TD out of Moss' Pro Bowl hands.
2005: The toppling of Favre
Dec. 4: Bears 19, Packers 7
After a rough season in 2004 and a 1-3 start in 2005, the Bears ripped off an eight-game winning streak. The last of those eight games was a 19-7 deconstruction of Favre and the Packers, a game dominated by the defense. Briggs was his usual bone-crushing self, making 11 tackles and recovering a Favre fumble. And Tillman produced a triple crown, nabbing a sack, a forced fumble and returning an interception 95 yards to set up a field goal to end the first half.
2006: Sniffing the mountaintop
Feb. 4, 2007: Colts 29, Bears 17
The Bears may have lost their only Super Bowl of the Lovie Smith era, but Briggs and Tillman were excellent. Briggs led the Bears with 13 tackles, and Tillman made one of his most impressive individual plays of his career: he wrapped up Colts tight end Bryan Fletcher, stripped the ball with his usual punch-out, held Fletcher on his feet and then dropped to the ground to recover the fumble.
2007: Super Bowl hangover?
Oct. 7: Bears 27, Packers 20
The 2007 season didn't start how the Bears wanted. It didn't end well either. But on Oct. 7, the Bears were reeling at 1-3 and needed a win in Green Bay to effectively save the season. Briggs came through with a beastly 16 tackles, as he continued his career habit of beating up Brett Favre and the Pack. And Tillman, who entered the game as a possible scratch, forced two early fumbles by Packers receiver James Jones.
2008: Back to the grind
Sept. 7: Bears 29, Colts 13
The Bears opened 2008 at Indianapolis, their first game against the Colts since losing the Super Bowl. They came out blazing, bagging a 50-yard TD run from rookie Matt Forte and a safety by Adewale Ogunleye. But the game-changing play came courtesy of Tillman and Briggs. Leading 15-13, Tillman stripped the ball from Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, and Briggs returned the fumble 21 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
2010: Another division title
Dec. 20: Bears 40, Vikings 14
Briggs and Tillman never turn down an opportunity to crush Brett Favre. The Bears went up to the University of Minnesota's stadium—after the Metrodome roof collapsed—to beat up the Vikings on a snowy Monday night and returned home with the NFC North crown. For their parts, Briggs had seven tackles and a sack of Vikings backup QB Joe Webb, while Tillman put the icing on the cake with a 56-yard interception return.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor.
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