Rerun for all needing
CHICAGO (AP) _ In the days when Mike Ditka had a crewcut and the New York Giants had a quarterback whose first name began with a Y, football games between the Chicago Bears and the Giants really meant something.
It will seem like old times Sunday when the Giants meet the Bears in a National Football Conference playoff game at Soldier Field, with the winner advancing to the conference title game.
″These two teams have been down a long time,″ said Ditka, who this season coached Chicago to a 15-1 record, best in the National Football League.
Ditka was a tight end for the Bears when they beat the Giants and quarterback Y.A. Tittle for the 1963 National Football League title, the last time Chicago was the home team for a playoff game.
″It’s good for football,″ he said, ″when you get two teams that were forerunners of most of the NFL teams.″
The last time the teams met was in 1977, with the Bears winning to earn a wild card spot in the playoffs.
The Giants, who finished 10-6 during the regular season and beat defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 17-3 in the NFC wild-card game last weekend, have the distinction of facing the two teams with the NFL’s best records for two seasons in a row in the playoffs.
″Does this all seem familiar?″ asked Len Fontes, the Giants’ defensive back coach. ″Last year the 49ers were 15-1 and headed for the Super Bowl. We played them tough, tougher than anyone, and lost (21-10).
″This time the Bears are 15-1, and everybody has them going to the Super Bowl,″ Fontes said. ″You can’t tell me we don’t have a better team this time.″
The Giants feature the second-best defense in the NFL, trailing only the Bears. Their offense is keyed around diminutive running back Joe Morris, the player the Bears consider the key to the game.
″I’m going to have a hard time tackling the guy,″ 6-foot-5 defensive tackle Dan Hampton said of the 5-7 Morris.
″I’ve got a 39-inch in-seam and I think he’s 38 inches tall. We’ll have a hard time wrapping that guy up,″ Hampton said.
Morris gained 1,336 yards during the season, scoring 21 touchdowns, but he has been practicing the ppast week with a flak jacket because of bruised ribs.
″We’re going to key on (Morris) and (quarterback Phil) Simms,″ rookie defensive tackle William ″The Refrigerator″ Perry said. ″Those two can hurt us anytime.″
Simms, ranked No. 6 among NFC quarterbacks, was selected to the Pro Bowl game after throwing for 3,829 yards and 22 touchdowns during the season. But he was intercepted 20 times, and the Bears led the NFL with 34 interceptions.
Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon is healthy, after missing four starts because of tendinitis in a shoulder. But he still finished second among NFC quarterbacks, throwing for 2,392 yards and 15 touchdowns, with only 11 interceptions. It will be McMahon’s first playoff appearance, after missing last year with a lacerated kidney.
Walter Payton, who gained 1,551 yards in his 11th NFL season, will try and erase the Giants’ distinction as the only NFC team never to allow him 100 yards rushing in a game.
″This year we were more intensified than we were last year,″ Payton said. ″We’re more determined.″
But it probably will be the defenses that decide the outcome, especially if the Chicago weather is bad.
″The Bears’ philosophy is to come out and intimidate you, but that doesn’t work with the Giants,″ said New York defensive end Leonard Marshall, another member of the NFC’s Pro Bowl team.
″Intimidation is not a word that we use when playing football,″ said Payton, who isn’t nicknamed Sweetness for nothing.
But linebacker Mike Singletary, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, said the matchup of physical teams was ideal.
″We dream about stuff like that,″ he said. ″Our defense loves that atmosphere.″
The Giants feature linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, and a fine defensive line, but the Bears think they can throw deep.
″When a team blitzes a lot, it means they’re covering up weaknesses,″ Chicago wide receiver Dennis McKinnon said. ″We can throw downfield.″
″We weren’t expected to do anything against the 49ers last week and we beat them,″ New York defensive lineman Casey Merrill said. ″We have nothing to lose. I don’t see how we can possibly be in a better position.″
End Adv Sun Jan 5