CHICAGO — Call it coincidence that Brad Childress was wearing all black on Sunday. After all, he and his team were not prepared for a funeral, not after last week's waking of the dead.
But at 3-6 now, the signs point to the Vikings' circus ending unhappily ever after, and it might happen without their current ringleader after a certain point very soon. There's no quit in this team, they're saying, not until someone tells them they can't play anymore, but it's beginning to sound a bit like the lost soldier fighting a war that already has ended.
"We're still in it," Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe said. "Still in it until they count us out."
And when asked if his coaching days would continue after the loss, Childress said, "Until I get told any differently, yeah."
The Vikings put themselves in a hole in Week 10, but unlike the previous game's comeback against the Cardinals, there was no life support this time. No Brett Favre magic. No Adrian Peterson "follow me to freedom" drive. No pass rush to spur things.
It was a confused, listless performance for much of the game, and it left a locker room full of players falling back on the "10-6 still gets us in the playoffs" crutch afterwards. Nothing with this team right now suggests that this team will end up any better than the inverse: 6-10. That's what we're looking at right now.
Everyone seemed to have a different take on what happened in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Bears.
Childress said he didn't see a problem with the effort. Peterson begged to differ.
"We needed more energy," Peterson said. "There was not one point during the game that I felt like we were going to lose. But, yeah, we needed more energy out there."
Nearby, OLG Steve Hutchinson talked about how the Bears made some adjustments in the second half, loading up with a series of well-timed weak- and strong-side blitzes where the Vikings just got unlucky and guessed wrong. And at about the same time, Favre was at the podium explaining what he saw: "The Chicago Bears, they don't adjust. They just play their defense, and they play it well."
The ultimate leveling field might be to ask the coach, but not in this case. Childress, who often likes to speak his own language, started talking about Favre's interception being tipped at the line on the second play of the third quarter.
No matter. Because there have been few reasonable explanations for why things have gone the way they have, it's now down to brass-tacks time: Insomuch, is this team done? Likely yes. Although the players seemed to be fogged after the game, they gamely spoke of winning enough contests to swat away pesky media members after games.
"We're not tapping out here," Shiancoe said. "We're professionals here. We owe it to ourselves, teammates, coaches, fans, everybody. No way we're going to tap out yet."
Save for pride, though, is there much to be gained here?
Favre, to whom this team tied its wagons, is just as capable of last week's fourth-quarter-and-OT flourish as he is with Sunday's second-half sinking. At halftime, he had a passer rating of 128.8. At game's end, it was 44.5. That's what three second-half interceptions, two in the final 8:01, will do. This team, and especially Favre, has not played a complete four quarters all season.
"You name it, pick something," Favre said. "You name it. I can't think of any one thing that doesn't need to change."
Childress probably won't get fired following Sunday's win, but the end isn't far off. Nor is it for Favre, who told NFL Network's Steve Mariucci that he won't be playing next season. (Do we really believe him this time? Final answer, yes we do.)
Favre has become the master of two things in his 20 years of football: playing both sides of the fence and proving the doubters wrong. There are seven games left, one would think, to finish off his legacy in both areas with one final chapter.
"I have no idea (if the Vikings will make the playoffs)," Favre said. "If I had to gauge today, I would say no. I'm not writing us off, but guys are in that locker room after the game are saying, 'We've got to find a way to turn it around,' and all these other clichés you might expect. They say, 'We've got to find a way to win.' I say yes to all that. Will we make the playoffs? I have no idea ... no idea.
"For anyone in that locker room to think beyond next week, or even beyond today, do a little self-evaluation, then we will be watching the playoffs. That's probably a better guess than us making the playoffs. That's just being honest. Unless, and it's an old cliché, but we need to find a way to turn it around."
Does that convince you? Does that stir your imagination heading into next Sunday's game against the first-place Packers? Can't blame anyone if it doesn't. Death can be hard to deal with, especially when it's slow, drawn-out and painful.