Coach Mike Tice has changed his approach to the Vikings' road game at Chicago dramatically from a year ago.
Last year, Tice's theme leading up to the game focused on Chicago being a "tough-guy town, and how in order to win in a tough-guy town the Vikings needed to run the ball.
The Vikings did indeed run the ball effectively. RB Onterrio Smith had 147 yards as the Vikings flexed their muscles.
The only problem is, the sluggish style played right into the Bears' hands. The inferior Bears were able to stay close to the Vikings' normally explosive offense until an interception in the end zone by Charles Tillman sealed a 13-10 Chicago victory.
Tice has been a little touchy when asked to talk about last year's game plan. He still insists it would have worked if the Vikings' hadn't turned the ball over at the end.
His true feelings probably can be read into his comments about this year's approach heading into the game.
"We're not going to go in there and be bull-headed and say we have to run the ball to win the game," Tice said. "We're going to go in there and say, `We're going to take what's there for us."
Tice has taken a lot of ribbing about his "tough-guy town" comment since he made it last season. He's not totally without a sense of humor about it.
He taped radio sound bites in which he responded "tough-guy town" after saying the names of each NFL city and other Upper Midwest cities. There's even one in which he says, "Minot ... is a tough-guy town."
DE Alex Brown, who leads the Bears with 5 1/2 sacks, agreed to terms Wednesday on a five-year contract extension worth more than $15 million with incentives and escalators based on sacks and other accomplishments and includes a signing bonus of $5.5 million.
"It's a great step for the now and for the future," said Bears GM Jerry Angelo, who drafted Brown in the fourth round in 2002. "Alex has proven himself here over the last three years, and we've always said we want to reward our own, and we're doing that with Alex. He's proven himself to everybody and we're real, real excited that we were able to do something sooner than later."
Brown leads the team's defensive linemen with 55 tackles and is tied for the team lead with a career-best 8 tackles for loss.
"He's really been consistent," Angelo said. "He's been a three-down player. Alex played the run very well in our previous scheme when more emphasis was on the run, so he got bigger and became a very good run player. Our new scheme calls for more of a vertical game in terms of emphasizing the pass rush, so he loses some 20 pounds, and now he's showing he can do that. So he's been a very versatile player, but more importantly he's been a good player in anything we've asked him to do."
The Bears now have every defensive starter and all of their top backups under contract for at least two more seasons.
"I believe that as a defensive line we are the most talented young group in the league," Brown said. "Now we have to learn how to play at a high level every week all year. When we learn how to do that, there's not going to be anybody who can touch us; we're going to be crazy on defense."