Vikings coach Leslie Frazier realizes that any slim possibility his team has of making the playoffs will disappear if it cannot beat the Chicago Bears at the Metrodome on Sunday.
"We have to win this game to have any hope of being a playoff team. We have to find a way to win," said Frazier, who has one year left on his contract and might need a strong finish to earn an extension.
"The Giants went 9-7 a year ago and won the Super Bowl. We have to really focus on Chicago and winning this game."
With the Vikings not getting any production out of their receivers, the news that Percy Harvin, maybe the NFL's best receiver, is through for the season had to dampen the chances of winning any of their remaining four games.
"Well, he's very important to our football team," said Frazier. "There's no question about it. We have a lot of good players, but Percy is an excellent football player.
"I know we would have been a better team with him than we are without him. We'd love to have him out there. Unfortunately it just hasn't worked out."
In talking about the team's receivers, who have been the subject of some scrutiny, Frazier said, "We're having some trouble connecting with our receivers. We're not getting the kind of separation against other teams' defensive backs that we'd like, and we're not having the connection between quarterback and receivers that we'd like.
"We have to keep trying to figure out here, before we play Chicago, what we have to do to get more production out of our receivers."
Coming out of last spring's draft, the Vikings were counting on big things from fourth-round choice Greg Childs. But he suffered a serious knee injury before the season and has missed the entire year.
"We think he's going to be a good player for us [in the future]," said Frazier. "Jarius Wright [the other Arkansas wide receiver taken in the fourth round] has come on for us here of late, and we're hoping he's going to turn out to be a good player.
"With the other guys we have, [Devin] Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins, Stephen Burton, we're counting on those guys to get better. The injury to Jerome Simpson definitely set us back. He'd been fighting through some things. But it has been tough going for our receivers."
Ponder's play key
Frazier acknowledged that quarterback Christian Ponder has to perform better if the team is to win its remaining games.
"[Ponder] has had some good games for us this season, but he hasn't been consistent as we'd like him to be," Frazier said. "We have to work to get him to be a consistently good quarterback.
"I know he's capable of playing better, and we need him to play better against the Bears this coming Sunday. We need him to really play well, and we believe he will."
How can Ponder improve?
"You have to keep taking him through drills," Frazier said, "keep taking him through the different things that you know that will help him to improve. And that's what we're working on, lots of drills, watching film, doing a lot of different things to study and try to get better.
"We want him to continue to improve on his decision-making, we want him to continue to improve on his pocket presence, and we want him to continue to work on his accuracy."
Webb will stay put
Backup quarterback Joe Webb played some wide receiver in college, and Frazier was asked if there was any thought of seeing if Webb could improve the team's performance at wide receiver.
Frazier said the team can't do that, "because we're only like one injury from having Joe have to go in and play quarterback. It just would be a risk to put him out there at wide receiver. As long as he's our backup quarterback, it would just be too risky if he were to pull a hamstring or some injury."
After losing on the road to the Bears and the Packers, Frazier said that it "will definitely help playing at home in front of our fans, feeding off the energy of our fans."
The Vikings are 5-1 at home and 1-5 on the road, so the chances of beating the Bears should be good.
Majerus 'U' candidate
The late Rick Majerus, one of the all-time great college basketball coaches and a very close personal friend, was the leading candidate for the Gophers men's basketball job in 1999 before withdrawing because of family issues.
Gophers athletic director Mark Dienhart flew down to Arkansas, where Majerus was holding a basketball clinic and came back thinking there was a good chance of hiring him.
My phone rang at home around midnight a week after Dienhart had interviewed Majerus, and it was Rick telling me that because of personal reasons he had to withdraw as a candidate.
Majerus was a tremendous coach and a great man who will be truly missed.
• Mark down former Vikings coach Brad Childress as one of the possible candidates for the University of Wisconsin's football coaching vacancy. Childress was on the staff of current athletic director Barry Alvarez for eight years and was highly recommended for the Vikings' job by Alvarez.
• Former Gophers running back DeLeon Eskridge is one of the stars for the San Jose State Spartans, who are ranked No. 24 in the country and will face Bowling Green in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27. Eskridge leads the team in rushing with 992 yards on 194 carries, good for a 5.1-yard average, with 10 touchdowns.
• Former Gophers basketball guard Devoe Joseph is playing well for Khimik-OPZ Yuzhny in the Ukraine Superleague. Joseph is averaging 11.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 22.7 minutes per game.
... Another former Gophers guard, Justin Cobbs, is second in scoring for the Cal Golden Bears at 18.7 points per game on 58.9 percent shooting. Cobbs also leads the Bears, who are 6-1, with 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
• Harvard freshman guard and Hopkins High product Siyani Chambers had 21 points and seven assists in the Crimson's 79-63 victory at Boston College on Tuesday, while sophomore forward Jonah Travis of DeLaSalle scored 14 points, going 5-for-5 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
Chambers, who has started every game, is second on the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game, and Travis is fourth at 9.9.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org