MINNEAPOLIS — Blank stares. Hard swallows. Heads shaking, bobblehead style, side to side in utter disbelief.
Misery engulfed the visiting locker room Sunday at the Metrodome.
After a long and emotionally draining game that required overtime to settle, the Bears had come face to face with the kind of loss that may very well torpedo their voyage toward the playoffs, a setback that threatens to replace their resolve with despondency in the season's final month.
Vikings 23, Bears 20.
Where opportunity had been, now there was an agitating list of questions ushering the Bears toward a Sunday night that would be sleepless or filled with nightmares.
How had things gone so haywire?
How did the Bears take what seemed to be a breezy win against an inferior opponent and fumble it away late as if it were a largemouth bass coated in Crisco?
How did the Bears wind up losing after receiver Alshon Jeffery caught 12 balls for a team-record 249 yards with two touchdowns?
How did they squander a double-digit fourth-quarter lead?
How did they surrender a 79-yard game-tying field goal drive in the final two minutes of regulation against the backup quarterback of a 2-8-1 team?
Maybe most importantly of all, how in the world does a team recover from a collapse like this one, not allowing the questions and the disappointment to eat away at their unity?
"I'll talk to them about it (Monday)," coach Marc Trestman promised. "Because it doesn't (end our season)."
Technically true. But a difficult regrouping effort awaits.
"We've all had tough times," safety Craig Steltz said. "We have to keep fighting."
So where did it all slip away Sunday?
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh ended things with a 34-yard field goal with 1:43 left in overtime. But he had that opportunity only after Robbie Gould missed a 47-yarder a series earlier for the Bears.
And Gould had that kick only because Trestman called on his field goal unit on second-and-7 from the Vikings' 29.
On the previous five plays, Matt Forte had carried the Bears 24 yards. Convincing runs of 7 yards, then 4, 9, 1 and 3. Yet suddenly, the usually fearless Trestman felt a surge of anxiety.
His explanation for kicking on second down: "We were definitely in range. And I didn't want to, at that point in time, risk a possible penalty that would set us back. … Or a fumble. Or something unique."
So there's that, a freeze-up in a big moment. And Trestman is correct that Gould's uncharacteristic miss wasn't the sole reason his team lost.