CHICAGO — Brett Favre understood there were no guarantees, that the storybook ending he was seeking might not come, when he decided to play this season.
He's still clinging to hope, though, no matter how little is left.
Chicago just about knocked the Minnesota Vikings out of playoff contention, with Jay Cutler throwing for 237 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bears to a 27-13 win that put them in a tie with Green Bay for the NFC North lead on Sunday.
It was a devastating blow for the Vikings (3-6), who needed to win this game and beat the Packers next week to get back in the race. Can they make the playoffs anyway?
"I have no idea," 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 saying, 'We've got to find a way to turn it around' and all the other cliches you might expect. ... Can this team make the playoffs? I say yes to that. Will we make the playoffs? I have no idea."
Favre threw for just 170 yards after going for a career-best 446 the previous week against Arizona, when Minnesota wiped out a late 14-point deficit and beat the Cardinals in overtime.
This time, there were no late rallies. And with the Vikings well back in the playoff chase after Sunday's loss, Favre was asked if he would keep playing this season if they're mathematically eliminated.
"Let's not worry about that," he said. "Don't push it. ... I think there's still a little hope left. I can't speak for the rest of the team, but I do know the consensus seemed to be afterward that there is life still left."
The loss also could prompt more calls for coach Brad Childress to be fired.
"You deal with it," he said. "It's not something you're happy to deal with. ... My name is behind the Vikings team. It all starts with me."
Asked if he'll be coaching next week, Childress said, "Until I get any word differently, yeah."
It didn't help that Favre threw three interceptions in the second half — two late in the game — that wiped out whatever chance the Vikings had at a comeback.
Chicago (6-3) also held Adrian Peterson to 51 yards rushing. Making matters worse was that receiver Bernard Berrian sat out after aggravating his groin in warmups and center John Sullivan left with a calf injury on the Vikings' first possession.
Percy Harvin, who was questionable with a migraine headache, limped off the field late in the game after aggravating an ankle problem.
"Honestly, it's a gut-check time," Jared Allen said. "It's getting old. Same song and dance, different game. We're just inconsistent."
As for the Bears?
"It was a big game for the whole team," Cutler said.
Cutler completed 22 of 35 passes and got picked off twice, but his 19-yard TD to Kellen Davis on play action made it 27-13 in the fourth quarter.
"He was in a groove," tight end Greg Olsen said. "After we settled those first couple drives I think the whole offense got in a pretty good groove where we had a lot of confidence. It's easy when you're standing on the sidelines and our defense is shutting them down with the guys they have on that side of the ball and we had the big returns."
Devin Hester had a 68-yard kickoff return to set up a third-quarter field goal by Robbie Gould that made it 20-13 after being used solely on punts through the first eight games. Hester wasn't bad in that area, either, running a punt back 42 yards.
For the Vikings, it was another bad afternoon in a tumultuous season that looked promising at the start. Instead there's been nonstop drama, with the acquired-and-departed Randy Moss, Childress and Favre all playing starring roles at various points.
"As I said when I came here last year, my first press conference — if it ended then, if it ended today, if it ends at the end of this year, if it ended before the start of this year, it's been a wonderful career," Favre said.