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Article updated: 11/18/2012 9:56 PM

For Bears offense, it doesn't get any easier vs. 49ers

By Bob LeGere

The Bears' offense has issues. Even coordinator Mike Tice admits it.

Monday night might not be the best time to address those issues, considering the 49ers' stout defense, but the Bears have no choice.

"This week our challenges are many," Tice said. "Across the board they have a tremendous defense, a tremendous football team, excellent players. They play a physical brand of football.

"They're going to take it to you. You're going to have to earn every yard that you make, and we have our hands full."

On paper, it looks like a mismatch. While the Bears' offense is 28th in total yards and 30th in passing yards and sacks allowed, the 49ers' defense is No. 3 in total yards and No. 5 in passing yards allowed.

The Bears' best mode of attack has been the run. They rank ninth in the league in rushing yards, but the Niners' defense is No. 7 in rushing yards allowed.

If the Bears can't run Monday night, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the attack.

Not when they have backup quarterback Jason Campbell making his first start in more than 15 months, and his first as a Bear.

And not when the Niners have pass-rush threat Aldon Smith, who had 14 sacks last season as a rookie and already has 9 this year, third best in the NFL.

"It's not easy," Campbell said. "We knew this was going to be a tough part of our schedule. You've got to go out there and take the bull by the horns."

So the Bears must lean on Matt Forte, who is coming off his worst game of the season, and Michael Bush, who lost a critical fumble last week.

"We've got to make sure we're able to run the football," Tice said. "We have to get the run game going. We have to take some pressure off Jason, and it all starts with that.

"It's going to be tough sledding, though. These guys are pretty doggone good. We've got to make sure we protect the quarterback. And when the plays are there, we've got to make the plays. It comes down to that."

Tice has been saying that for a few weeks now, but consistency has been elusive. He sounds impatient.

"We're nine games into this thing," he said. "We've got to continue to work to get better and at some point hopefully we'll put it all together and play an entire four quarters with some type of rhythm. We haven't got there yet."

Actually Brandon Marshall is there, but he's waiting for someone, anyone, to join him.

"The truth is that I am the No. 1 receiver here," Marshall said. "They brought me here to be the No. 1 guy.

"But, with that being said, we have players who can make plays, players who are more than capable of having big games like I've been having.

"When you look at the guys like Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and now getting Alshon (Jeffery) back, they're more than capable. But it's all on just taking advantage of the opportunity."

While Marshall is among the league leaders with 67 catches for 904 yards and remains on pace to shatter franchise records in both categories, the remainder of the receiving corps has languished.

Hester has just 5 catches for 28 yards in the past three games -- total. Bennett has 8 catches for 78 yards. Jeffery hasn't played since suffering a fractured hand in Week 5, but he should be back Monday night, which would be "huge," according to coach Lovie Smith.

"Alshon was playing great ball when he went down with the injury," Smith said. "He's another big, big target, another guy for Jason to throw to if it comes to that. Another guy with some size to block if we lean more towards the run."

According to Tice, the solution is basic.

"I learned a long time ago -- I'm always quoting (former NFL head coach) Chuck Knox -- you've got to make the plays that you're afforded an opportunity to make," Tice said, "and you can't turn the ball over.

"Turning the ball over is still the No. 1 criteria to winning at any level elementary school, junior high and especially in the NFL."

Basic, maybe, but it won't be easy against the 49ers.

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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