Over the last 13 NFL seasons, Charles Tillman forced more fumbles than any defensive back in the league. In fact, Tillman's 44 forced fumbles (a ridiculous number) almost doubled that of the next guy in line over the same period -- Charles Woodson, with 23. So, how did he do it? Tillman is famous for the "Peanut Punch," which became a part of our game-day vocabulary during his career. With Tillman calling it a career earlier this week, let's break down the technique that is now on teaching tapes at every level of the game.
Square up the ball carrier in the open field. That sounds simple -- and it's taught every day on high school practice fields -- but Tillman always put himself in a position to secure the tackle first and foremost. That's technique -- consistent technique. And it allowed Tillman to load up and punch the ball out. Take a look at Tillman here versus the Detroit Lions during the 2012 season on Monday Night Football.
With tight end Brandon Pettigrew working up the field after a reception, Tillman drives downhill, comes to balance (squares his shoulders/feet) and sucks up the distance to the ball carrier. Put that guy in a phone booth, right? Now Tillman is in a position to take on the stiff-arm from a much bigger player in the open field while loading his arm to punch the ball.
With Tillman using the proper technique to square-up Pettigrew at the point of attack, the Bears cornerback can deliver the punch. Check out the placement of Tillman's hand on the ball while he is engaged with Pettigrew.
This isn't an out of control attempt at a strip or a defender blindly raking down on the arm. Instead, it is a calculated technique, no different than a boxer throwing a jab to the ribs. It's a straight shot -- with force -- right on the ball.
The punch isn't going to work every time, and that's why we see Tillman secure the shoulder of Pettigrew with his off-hand. If that ball doesn't come out, you make the tackle and move onto the next play. That's football.
However, as Tillman showed throughout his long run in the league, he follows through on the ball, pops it out and forces yet another fumble. No panic here; just technique. And a natural awareness from one of the best I have ever seen at stripping the rock. You want teaching tape? Watch Tillman.