Jared Allen has lived this bad dream before

As this Bears season plummets, DE Jared Allen remembers a year that was much, much worse.

Jared Allen knew the dysfunction had become irreversible, the drama too great to steer clear of.

Allen's team, which entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, had hit a frustrating skid, the tension intensifying after each new failure.

The locker room was shaken. A path out of the darkness was hard to see.

A talented defense was out of synch. The starting quarterback was having great difficulty protecting the ball. And to top things off, in a Week 11 game against the rival Packers, Allen and his teammates were obliterated.

Somehow, an ultratalented team hit mid-November with only three victories, its confidence plummeting like rocks in an avalanche.

"With all that was happening, something big had to change," Allen said.

We're talking about 2010, a promising Vikings season that went off the rails in spectacular fashion.

In the middle of the chaos came the aforementioned blowout loss, which was followed the next day by a firing – head coach Brad Childress sent away as the tumult escalated.

"It was a mess," Allen said. "I was miserable going to work. I hated it."

Allen's perspective may prove valuable during this critical time at Halas Hall, with the Bears at 3-6, attempting to steer out of their current skid and hoping to avoid the excessive melodrama and commotion that turns disappointing seasons disastrous.

"This team isn't there," Allen asserted.

As for his experience in that 2010 free fall, a year in which he had just one sack after seven games?

"I honestly do lean on that season, especially at times like this," Allen said. "For me, it was valuable in terms of learning how to get through frustration, learning how to finish strong."

Frankly, it's not the conversation Allen expected to be having as he prepares to face the Vikings for the first time Sunday.

In January 2010, the Vikings were one play from the Super Bowl, losing the NFC Championship Game to the Saints in overtime. By New Year's Eve, they were rolling credits on a 6-10 sequel with so many bizarre twists even the Coen brothers would have questioned its plausibility.

Allen shook his head Wednesday, chronicling how a season's exhilaration turned despondent.

There was his impromptu mid-August flight to Mississippi with teammates Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson, team leaders sent to convince Brett Favre to play one last season.

They succeeded.

"I just wish Brett would have taken a little more time deciding," Allen joked. "We could have stayed down there for a week and gotten the heck out of training camp."

After a 1-3 September, there was the pairing of Favre with Randy Moss, via a trade with the Patriots. But that didn't last long after Moss clashed with Childress, was cut after just four games and had a postgame news conference after his final outing as a Viking at New England in which he vowed both to ask and answer all the questions. Moss closed that session by literally saluting Bill Belichick and the Patriots, which didn't exactly help his chances of sticking around.

Childress, who reportedly never informed ownership before cutting Moss, didn't last much longer either, dismissed 21 days later after that 31-3 loss to the Packers offered irrefutable evidence that the 3-7 Vikings had stopped believing in him.

"Brad was a heck of a coach. He won," Allen said of the Vikings going 10-6 and 12-4 in 2008 and '09. "But the expectations when we got Brett back was that this was going to be 2009 all over again. And it was a lot to ask.

"It's no secret that Brett and Brad didn't see eye-to-eye on everything. … It was one of those things. You're losing. Aggressive style coach. And not everybody likes to hear exactly where they stand. There were clashes. Tension builds up and guys start choosing sides. You with Brad? You with Brett? It was a locker room that was completely split."

With so much stress, it seemed at any moment their roof could cave in. And then it did. In December, a monster snowstorm tore a hole through the Metrodome roof — on the morning the Vikings were supposed to host the Giants.

Allen was in bed at the team hotel on Dec. 6 when he got a call from Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes, whose team hadn't made it to the Twin Cities, diverted to Kansas City by the blizzard.

"My phone's ringing at 5 a.m.," Allen said. "I'm thinking it's a joke, like, 'Really dude, you're going to wake me up this early.' And L.T. tells me the dome collapsed. I turn on the TV and sure enough."

That Vikings-Giants game was played instead on Monday night — at Ford Field in Detroit.

The following week, the Vikings hosted the Bears, this time outdoors at the University of Minnesota, with no heating coils below the playing surface and a game-time wind chill of 9 degrees that turned the field into a skating rink.

Favre, declared out two days earlier, somehow talked his way back into the starting lineup — only to see his career end on a Corey Wootton hit that sent the quarterback's head crashing into the ground.

The Vikings lost 40-14, another cold-cocking they couldn't avoid.

Said Allen: "In that season? It felt to me like our hell froze over that night."

He chuckled.

"That was the fitting end to a miserable season."

Only the Vikings had two weeks left and the next week they were walloped by another blizzard that shut the city of Philadelphia down and pushed a Sunday night game against the Eagles back to Tuesday night.

The Vikings' four-day, three-night trip in snowy Philadelphia wasn't exactly the getaway they desired, as low on patience and energy as they were on extra clothing.

"The only store that was open was like a big-and-tall," Allen said. "I had to go buy myself some new Levi's and a shirt. It was a mess."

In light of the Bears' recent struggles, Allen has been though worse, learning to develop thicker skin and an encouraging demeanor through low moments, qualities he hopes teammates will emulate.

"This league is crazy," Allen said. "You think, this is professional football and it's just supposed to be a bunch of grown men playing sports. But there's so much drama. You have to learn how to get through it, get around it. "I've learned to tune out the drama. There was a time in my life where I probably would have been right in the mix of all this, pissed off, screaming. I did that in 2010."

Now, Allen says, breaking the losing cycle requires a daily approach with winning habits.

"You put a smile on your face. You work hard. You play with emotion, play with fire. You hope the guys around you notice and go, 'Ya know what, through all this, he's still working hard.' "

It's one formula to produce steadiness. And when things go haywire, perspective helps.

It could always be worse.

dwiederer@tribpub.com

Twitter @danwiederer

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