Vikings look to rebound vs. BearsThe way they’ve performed under the national spotlight in recent weeks, the Minnesota Vikings could be excused if they’re feeling a little stage fright. Good thing for them, their next opponent is in disarray. For all the drama of late, the Vikings (11-3) are still in a good spot heading into their Monday night matchup against the dysfunctional Chicago Bears (5-9). They could even lock up a first-round playoff bye with some help, and if that happens, who knows? Brett Favre just might wrap coach Brad Childress in a big bear hug.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The way they’ve performed under the national spotlight in recent weeks, the Minnesota Vikings could be excused if they’re feeling a little stage fright.
Good thing for them, their next opponent is in disarray.
For all the drama of late, the Vikings (11-3) are still in a good spot heading into their Monday night matchup against the dysfunctional Chicago Bears (5-9). They could even lock up a first-round playoff bye with some help, and if that happens, who knows? Brett Favre just might wrap coach Brad Childress in a big bear hug.
“We want to have momentum going into the playoffs,” defensive end Ray Edwards said. “We don’t want to go in there losing.”
Yet, they’ve done just that lately after breezing through the first three months. Now, Favre and Childress appear to be at odds.
The two were seen arguing on the sideline during last week’s 26-7 loss to Carolina, the Vikings’ second in three weeks on national TV. With a 7-6 lead in the third quarter, Childress was thinking about pulling Favre. The quarterback was having none of that. And the conflict was playing out in public.
Childress said he was only thinking of Favre’s safety in the face of Carolina’s pass rush; he didn’t want the veteran to get hurt. Favre stayed in and wound up 17 of 27 for 224 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, and the Vikings wasted a chance to put some pressure on NFC leader New Orleans.
Now, they’re trying to hold off Philadelphia, but if the Eagles lose to Denver on Sunday, Minnesota would wrap up a first-round playoff bye with a tie or win. That would ease some of the stress that’s surfaced in recent weeks.
Besides that public spat between Favre and Childress, the Vikings got stifled in a 30-17 loss at Arizona two weeks earlier on a Sunday night, and star running back Adrian Peterson is finding little room to move.
The NFL’s fourth-leading rusher, Peterson managed just 19 yards against the Cardinals and 35 against Carolina last week after going for 97 in a win over Cincinnati.
Favre, meanwhile, has struggled a bit after playing some of the best football of his career in taking Minnesota to 10-1, with the 10th victory a 36-10 shredding of the Bears. The Vikings racked up an astonishing 537 yards in that game, with their quarterback throwing for a season-high 392.
Favre has three touchdowns and four interceptions this month after throwing 24 and three over the first 11 games, and the Vikings are struggling.
“We’re embarrassed and disappointed and all the other negative words,” linebacker Ben Leber said. “Obviously we’re pretty down on ourselves right now. You never want to go out on a national stage like that and flop like we did the last two times against Arizona and Carolina. We’re going to get this thing fixed.”
If they’ve cooled off, then the Bears have taken a polar plunge into Lake Michigan.
“Things haven’t gone right, so we have to continue to fight,” defensive end Alex Brown said.
Coach Lovie Smith said he sees hope for a strong finish, and that’s based on “knowing how we’ve played at times this year — that’s what gives us hope.”
Most of the time, though, the Bears have struggled.
Chicago expected to jump back into contention with the arrival of quarterback Jay Cutler from Denver. Instead, the Bears took a headfirst dive and left a bunch of questions in their wake, many centering on Smith’s job security.
Like his offensive line, general manager Jerry Angelo did nothing to stop the rush before the game at Baltimore last week when he shot down an Internet report that Smith would return and said the team’s performance would determine the coach’s future. Then, the Bears got pummeled 31-7 by the Ravens, their eighth loss in 10 games.
That didn’t help Smith, who has two years and $11 million remaining on his contract. Even so, Angelo said money won’t be a factor in Smith’s future as coach.
Then again, is he in any position to say? Is his job safe? That’s not exactly clear at the moment.
What is obvious is the Bears are in disarray.
“We’ve been so inconsistent this year,” Brown said.
So have the Vikings lately.
“We just need to correct the small things,” defensive tackle Kevin Williams said, “and get ready going into the last two games and the playoffs.”