I listened in on Mike Tice's weekly meeting with reporters Wednesday to see what, if anything, had resulted from the Chicago Bears' embarrassing offensive performance in Monday night's 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Would there be personnel changes? Fundamental scheme adjustments? Or simply a challenge?
Tice, the Bears' offensive coordinator, didn't rule out anything to improve pass protection that allowed 5.5 sacks to 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith. He discussed backup tackle Jonathan Scott's competence and the struggles of right tackle Gabe Carimi. Tice also said that from now on, he will "always" incorporate the possibility of help for each pass protector.
Mostly, though, Tice in essence is expecting Carimi and the rest of the Bears' offensive line to man up.
"At a certain point," Tice said, "a player, a man, needs to grit his teeth, buck up and win a fight."
Smith embarrassed Carimi several times, on one occasion driving him back into quarterback Jason Campbell for a sack. But left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right guard Chilo Rachal also had their moments, and after 10 games, Tice indicated he is done waiting to see if the line can reach a level of consistency as a group.
"When you're at six games to go," Tice said, "what you have to do is say, 'That's it, from now on I can't say, OK, we're making strides, let's do this.' There has to be a very determined effort on us and our staff to make sure that we do have, always, chip help answers, slide answers, two guys on one guys answers. Because I've found unfortunately that you can't take for granted that we're going to have [a consistent] level of play."
Indeed, the Bears will start by providing chip help for their tackles Sunday against Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, whom Tice referred to as "Waldo" to emphasize the Bears will know where he is at all times.
There isn't much the Bears can do from a personnel standpoint unless Carimi's confidence is so shot that he can't function. Scott has started 30 games for four NFL teams over seven seasons, and he would be the shortest of short-term answers.
Mostly, I think, the Bears are going to have to suck it up and do whatever it takes to protect the quarterback. Tice can't trust this group to straighten itself out permanently if it hasn't done so by now. If that means limiting the types of plays they can call or routes they can run, so be it.
Tice said Wednesday that "what we've got to do is block better," which is true. But what beyond anything else, the Bears have to make sure they provide as much support as possible to achieve that end.