EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre and Brad Childress enjoyed quite the honeymoon in their first three months together in Minnesota.
The coach coaxed the quarterback out of retirement to play for the Vikings, picking up the 40-year-old from the airport and personally chauffeuring him to team headquarters to sign a contract in August.
Favre responded with some of the best football of his life to help the Vikings to a 10-1 start, piling up touchdowns and victories that helped Childress secure a long-term contract extension.
One day after their first public spat, Childress said he was only thinking about Favre's safety against a ferocious Carolina Panthers pass rush when he considered pulling the quarterback from the game Sunday night with a one-point lead in the third quarter.
"I'm watching, and I said, 'Hey, you know what? I'm thinking about taking you out of the game here,'" Childress said Monday. "I mean, you're getting your rear end kicked.' Through not a lot of fault of his own."
After the Vikings' second alarming performance on national television in the last three weeks led to a 26-7 loss to the lowly Panthers, Favre was asked about an animated exchange he had in the third quarter with Childress with their team clinging to a 7-6 lead.
"Yeah, there was a heated discussion, I guess you would call it," Favre said after the game. "We were up 7-6 at the time. No secret, I was getting hit a little bit. I felt the pressure on a lot of plays. We had seven points. So I think everyone in the building was like, 'They're not moving the ball, they're not getting points.' Brad wanted to go in a different direction, and I wanted to stay in the game."
Favre remained in the game and completed 17 of 27 passes for 224 yards with no touchdowns and one interception as the Vikings missed a chance to put some pressure on the New Orleans Saints in the race for the NFC's top playoff seed.
Childress said he didn't consider it a "heated discussion," but rather "a stream of consciousness" that Favre didn't take well in the heat of the moment.
"What I said was, 'It has nothing to do with how you're playing. It has to do with what's happening to you out there,'" Childress said. "And again, there's volatility and emotion involved."
Favre was unavailable for further comment Monday, as were the rest of the Vikings' offensive players.
"Obviously, he didn't want anything to do with that, which I certainly appreciate from his standpoint," Childress said of Favre's resistance to the idea of taking a seat. "He wasn't like, 'OK, let me get my hat on.' That wasn't in his makeup."
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was benched after being dominated by defensive end Julius Peppers, and Adrian Peterson rushed for just 35 yards behind an offensive line that had no answer for the Panthers' physical front seven.
With Peterson stalled and Favre on the run, the Vikings were a season-worst 1 for 10 on third-down conversions. After throwing 24 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in the first 11 games, Favre has thrown four interceptions and three touchdowns as the Vikings have dropped two of the last three games.
The struggles were enough to make Childress consider inserting the more mobile Tarvaris Jackson to see if he would have better success eluding the Panthers' rush and make sure that Favre remains healthy for the stretch run.
Favre, meanwhile, wasn't thinking about the future and didn't appear to take kindly to the suggestion that he should sit down with the game so close.
"It was the thought that I was having at the time," Childress said. "Usually children do that. They give you the straight stream of consciousness all the time, appropriate or inappropriate. Mine was more communicative. It was to stream some dialogue. I wasn't trying to get a goat. I was just telling him what I was seeing."
Now instead of being in a position to challenge the Saints (13-1) for home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Vikings (11-3) have the surging Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) breathing down their necks in the race for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Vikings play at Chicago next Monday night, then come home for the regular-season finale against the New York Giants before the playoffs begin.
"It feels like we're 3-11," Childress said. "Can you feel that? It's kind of palpable for us in the locker room. That's how we're wired."