EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -The Minnesota Vikings actually got some offense going Sunday, a positive development that yielded no reward.
After piling up 41 points against an above-average defense in Chicago, the Vikings (3-4) were stuck with another frustrating defeat.
``Somehow, someway, we found a way to lose. It's just a tough one overall,'' cornerback Antoine Winfield said.
They stumbled into their much-needed bye week, lamenting an opportunity to stay in first place in the NFC North after watching the Bears score two touchdowns on special teams gaffes destined for the blooper-reel archives.
This has not been a special season for Minnesota so far, especially not in punting situations.
In Sunday's 48-41 loss, punter Chris Kluwe dropped a snap and had his desperate attempt to kick the ball blocked for a 17-yard score in the first quarter. In the second period, returner Charles Gordon let Chicago's punt glance off him and into the end zone for another too-easy TD.
ks ago for forgetting his assignment in New Orleans and kicking directly to Saints returner Reggie Bush to stage a pair of scores.
On Monday, he softened - declining to criticize any players or special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro for the continued deficient performances by the units he oversees.
``It all comes back to me,'' Childress said. ``I'm not going to pin it on the coach or a player. It all comes back to me. That's what it is. I'm the guy that's got the wins and losses behind my record.''
That record is now 17-22, leaving little room for grace from the bosses in terms of job security. If the fan base had its way, Childress would have been fired a while ago.
``There's nobody here that's not disappointed, because we hold ourselves to a pretty high standard in this whole building,'' Childress said. ``The big thing is that you're able to learn from past disappointments and hopefully put 'em into play here going forward in these next nine games.
``I think I've got a group of men ... that are committed to wanting to get it right. It's not for any lack of effort. Have there been mistakes? Yeah there's been mistakes, but I see those guys playing hard. And if they eliminate some of those mistakes, obviously we'll have a better result.''
ick coverages have improved. But also to blame for the Vikings' trouble is a return game that has given the offense next to nothing.
Gordon ranks 26th in the NFL with a 3.8-yard average per punt return. Maurice Hicks is 22nd in the league with an average of 22.6 yards per kickoff return.
``They get coached every day, and there's somebody back there with 'em so they're not standing in a vacuum,'' Childress said. ``I think we've got a good scheme. I think we just need to operate it better.''
In-game coaching decisions are still ripe for criticism, whether play calls that appear too conservative at times and too cute at others or management of the clock in the fourth quarter.
The choice to squib kick and keep the ball away from dangerous Bears returner Devin Hester was clearly rooted in his success against the Vikings last year - and Bush's two weeks prior - but Hester was hurting on Sunday and has not been nearly as effective this season while spending a big chunk of his time as a wide receiver.
Getting the offense, defense and special teams to perform up to par at the same time has been a fleeting goal. Minnesota is outgaining opponents this year by an average of 342 to 290 yards per game, but the turnovers and third-down struggles will always add up the fastest.
he NFL. Their 32.7-percent conversion rate on third down ranks 27th in the league.
The best reason for this team to be optimistic when it emerges next week from a mini-vacation is the mediocre division.
``If it was 0-7 it might be a different story, but we're still in it and that's the attitude we need to have,'' safety Darren Sharper said, adding: ``We still have a fighting chance.''

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