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Bears go from tough to tame

And now Vikings will want to get licks in after viewing whipping 49ers delivered

Matt Bowen

Scouting the Bears

6:19 PM CST, November 21, 2012

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Are you tough?

That's what guys want to know in the NFL. You want to really compliment a pro ballplayer? Call him "tough." It is the highest degree of praise you can receive in my opinion.

Forget stats here. Passing yards? Touchdowns? Sacks? Nah. That's fantasy football stuff. Save it for the box scores, happy hours and the quick break at the water cooler.

In this league, you will be judged on your toughness. The ability to hit, tackle and block. Take a punch to the mouth? Get up and hit back. It's part of the drill.

I didn't expect the Bears to travel west Monday night and come home with a victory against the 49ers. That's a complete team under Jim Harbaugh. And it's not easy to win on the road versus top tier competition unless you play your best.

But to see Lovie Smith's squad get pushed around, beat up and blown off the ball?

In fact, they looked, well, soft.

That shocked me. It really did. That Bears team was lifeless at times before a national audience. There was a lot of lazy football when it comes to technique and footwork — the basics of the game that you practice in mini-camp.

Throughout the week I have listened to opinions on adjustments or scheme changes the Bears could have made during the game in San Francisco. That sounds good and makes for a decent discussion, but tell me what the Bears could have drawn up on a chalkboard that would have saved them?

Different blocking schemes? Coverages? Blitzes? Come on. You can't make adjustments with a helmet constantly under your chin for four quarters.

That game wasn't about scheme or X's and O's. Nope. It was about toughness and the ability to win matchups at the line of scrimmage. The same matchups that exposed the Bears, their offensive tackles, defensive front seven and the safeties in the secondary.

It had to be a rough week watching tape at Halas Hall. It always stings as a player to re-live a nightmare game. You start to sweat, squirm in your seat and brace for the worst when the lights go dark in the film room.

Hey, the tape doesn't lie. When you play poorly, lack execution and get whipped throughout the night, it's easy to spot.

Even in a game in which the Bears were outplayed, making some corrections off the film is crucial to the final stretch of the season.

But that game tape also is out there for everyone to see.

Right now, the Bears don't look so scary when you hit the "play" button. Forget the blowout victories over the Titans and the Jaguars. Those are in the past and games the Bears were supposed to win because of the talent gap.

That won't be the case Sunday.

Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and the Vikings are watching the tape from Monday night, taking notes, putting together a game plan and preparing to attack the Bears the same way the 49ers did.

Play physical. Win up front. Hit the quarterback. Run the ball.

A simple plan, really. But that's what the Bears should expect after they laid down in a marquee matchup against Aldon Smith, Frank Gore and Patrick Willis.

And until they can make the corrections and put some quality football on tape, the rest of the NFL is going to come after them.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.