Jared Allen had a good answer prepared when asked if the Vikings can win four in a row to finish 10-6, which is what they most likely have to do to make the playoffs.
"Anybody can," the Vikings defensive end said. "Heck, look at Arizona. They were 4-0 at the start of the year."
Now, the Cardinals are 4-8.
"It's not desperation," Allen said about the Vikings' game Sunday against the Bears. "It's a sense of urgency. These are must-win games now. We've let a couple slip through our hands, and you can't do that. We got to run off four straight."
Allen is playing despite a torn labrum and back spasms, but said, "You play through things every year. For me, I've never had this much on me in one year. ... And come Sunday I'm always 100 percent on Sunday, no matter what the issue is."
The NFL's reigning sack champion said he doesn't expect "payback" from the Bears for delivering the block that caused the season-ending knee injury for Bears guard Lance Louis two weeks ago and cost Allen $21,000.
"They could have [gotten revenge] in that game," Allen said. "People want to build it up more than what it was. We had an interception and I threw a block. I don't know how many times I got to say my condolences for him getting hurt. Not my intention."
Down on defense
Alan Williams isn't big on moral victories. So while the Vikings have been solid defensively the past two weeks in Chicago and Green Bay, the defensive coordinator points to only one thing: the Vikings still lost.
"Still not good enough," Williams said. "They still scored too many points."
The Bears and Packers combined to convert 57 percent of their third downs (20-for-35). Connected with that, the Vikings' defense also has been chewed up by lengthy, draining, time-consuming drives. In Week 12 in Chicago, the Vikings allowed a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Last week, the Packers ran 11 minutes off the clock to open the fourth quarter, marching 73 yards in 17 plays before Mason Crosby kicked a game-sealing 31-yard field goal. There were no major defensive breakdowns on that series. But there were no big plays, either.
"It's one guy here, one guy there, not getting our job done, not taking care of our assignments," Williams explained. "It builds up and when you have a team like that, if you don't take care of your assignment on every play, they'll make you pay."
Williams said he believes his players have fallen into the trap too often this season of "trying to do more than their supposed to." That's again been a point of emphasis this week as the Vikings attempt to shore things up for Sunday's game with Chicago.
"The preaching point, the sticking point is if you do your job, that will be plenty good enough to win a ballgame and to get off the field series after series," Williams said.
Chris Cook returned to practice Thursday afternoon, exactly six weeks after breaking his right arm in a Week 8 home loss to Tampa Bay. The following day, the cornerback was placed on injured reserve with designation to return, a new label that was implemented this season.
That move required Cook to be out of practice for six weeks following his placement. With the designation to return -- which a club can use on only one player per season -- players are not eligible to play in a game until eight weeks after being placed on I.R. That means Cook's first possible action would come in Week 16 in Houston, which is the Vikings' current target date for his return.
"That's the goal," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It was good to see him out here today moving around. We'll have to see how he progresses."