Win Sunday and good times return
There is no way to sugarcoat what happened Monday night in San Francisco.
It was awful. Their play was miserable. The effort was horrendous.
Use whatever adjective you want. The Bears got outplayed and outcoached by one of the NFC's top teams.
But it doesn't mean the Bears are no longer Super Bowl contenders.
The NFL is a fluid league. Everything is week-to-week. There is a real chance the Bears are able to recover from this and knock off the Vikings at home on Sunday on a short week. A victory over Minnesota would put the Bears at 8-3 with two of their next three games at Soldier Field.
How would you feel then?
All that matters in the NFL is making the playoffs, which the Bears are still in a position to do despite the back-to-back losses to the Houston Texans and 49ers. Qualify for the postseason and enter the playoffs on a little bit of a high note, and anything is possible.
We all knew heading into the season the Bears were not going to be 15-1 or 14-2. This is more of an 11-5 or 10-6 squad, which is still usually good enough to reach the playoffs.
I'll concede that it's alarming the Bears have lost to the three best teams on their schedule up to this point (the combined record of the seven teams the Bears have beaten is 25-44-1), but Lovie Smith's club still gets another crack at the Packers in December.
That will be the true litmus test of whether the Bears are a legitimate Super Bowl team. If they can knock off the Packers in Chicago, the Bears are legit.
If not, it's over, because until the Bears and Jay Cutler can find a way to get past Green Bay, they will not be a viable contender to win the NFC.
But we still have a couple of weeks until we have to draw that conclusion.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
Bears' 0-3 mark cause for concern
It's easy to over-dramatize every game in a league that plays once a week. In a city where seemingly everyone has an opinion about protection schemes and defensive zones, the ups and downs are amplified.
But after the Bears' brutal 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, you wouldn't be wrong to be worried, in advance, about Chicago's playoff hopes.
There are a lot of numbers to digest and analyze, but you can start with 0 and 3. That's zero wins and three losses for the Bears against legitimate playoff teams. All had different stories, but in each one, the Bears showed major vulnerabilities. That doesn't mean the Bears can't beat any team on a given day, but I'd like to see them show it at least once.
The defense got worked in San Francisco, but it will bounce back. The offense hasn't been good for most of the season, and there's a reason. After watching Aldon Smith destroy the Bears' troubled tackles, it's pretty obvious the muck at Soldier Field deserves partial credit for silencing Houston's J.J. Watt.
Jay Cutler hasn't been consistent and offensive coordinator Mike Tice doesn't seem to be a very strong play-caller, but a lot of it comes back to the play of the line. I'm not a big fan of Jason Campbell's on-field work, but he barely had time for a pump fake Monday night as the pocket collapsed around him. Can Tice out-scheme a defense? Can the line hold up?
One thing about the Bears is that they don't trick anyone. The 49ers came out with new formations and plays with Colin Kaepernick under center. The Bears did not. The defense prides itself on executing with brutal simplicity, but good teams can find the seams in the Bears' Cover-2 and single-high safety looks.
I've been touting the Bears as a Super Bowl team, and they're still capable of being one. Plenty of teams, like the 2008 Steelers, have gone into the Super Bowl, and won, with offensive line problems and erratic quarterbacks.
But this team needs to show itself it can beat a good team. Minnesota and Seattle will be good practice tests for Green Bay, which comes to Soldier Field on Dec. 16.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.