Peterson a tough issue for Bears to tackle

Better fundamentals will be key Sunday against Vikings star

Tribune reporters preview Bears-Vikings game.

Blocking and tackling, the two major foundations of football, seem to have taken a seat at the end of the bench in the NFL, where quick scores and virtual 7-on-7 passing drills provide the weekly highlights.

The Vikings' Adrian Peterson is no tackling dummy, and Bears defenders continue to espouse the league's latest catchphrase of "population tackling" as the best way to subdue the reigning NFL MVP on Sunday.

Many former players blame the poor tackling on the fact players are fined left and right for not tackling an opponent properly.

"In the old days, it didn't matter where you hit 'em. They have softened the game up," Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins, a member of the 1963 champion Bears, once told me.

"It looks like a bunch of sumo wrestlers at the line nowadays. They get engaged in their blocks and they are all hugging and stuff. I don't know why they can't use a head slap anymore."

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker preaches proper technique, but at the end of the day, a ball carrier simply has to be taken to the ground by any means necessary.

"Your most improvement is from your first game to your second game, and that's what we're looking to do," Tucker said. "Whether it is in the pass rush or eliminating big plays or tackling or getting off the field on third down … we're looking for huge amounts of improvement. But it starts in practice."

The Bears have been practicing this week to focus on Peterson, knowing full well he also can be an effective decoy.

"He's a powerful guy, shifty as well. A combination of everything," defensive end Corey Wootton said. "So you've got to population tackle him."

Safety Chris Conte is cognizant of the fact oft-criticized Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder could benefit if the Bears ignore him.

"He's a young guy; they live off of play action," Conte said. "Their running game is what gets them going. We just have to be prepared for him on the move to get outside of the pocket. Play action is the big thing with them."

The Bears defense is renowned for its penchant for takeaways, but they can't rely on those solely to sustain them throughout the season.

"Tackling … that was probably one of the biggest disappointments that I saw last week against Cincinnati," Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman said. "That is to be expected in Week 1, but we are all professionals. We still have a high standard for ourselves.

"That is what has made our defense successful for so long. We set the bar pretty high for ourselves."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34

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