CHICAGO -- It is not as if William Perry ever disappeared from the NFL scene. That would be physically impossible. But yesterday afternoon at muggy Soldier Field, "The Fridge" served notice that he definitely is still around.
In a game that almost had to come down to one final big play, Perry, perhaps the biggest man in football, came through. His block of Matt Bahr's 35-yard field-goal attempt kept the New York Giants from tying the score with 10 seconds to play and preserved a 20-17 victory for the Chicago Bears.
"Yes, Perry blocked the field goal," coach Mike Ditka said. "Tallest guy on our team. Perry. William Perry. Hit him right in the stomach."
Perry, whose weight almost certainly exceeds 340 pounds, got a hand -- or something -- on Bahr's kick as the Bears front surged through the middle of the Giants line.
Apparently feeling that the media have been unkind in its portrayal of his problems, Perry left the locker room quickly after the game, but talked to an Associated Press reporter who caught up with him in the Soldier Field parking lot.
"It was all 11; it wasn't just me," Perry said of his defensive teammates. "Everybody did what they were supposed to do, and we pushed them back."
As for the final kick, he said, "I got my hand on it and blocked it."
"The guy with one of the biggest hearts on the team came through for us," defensive end Trace Armstrong said.
Perry's block kept the Bears in first place in the NFC Central at 3-0, and the defending Super Bowl champions dropped to 1-2. It's a position the Giants hardly could have envisioned after beating the San Francisco 49ers in their opener. But so many recent Giants games have ended with field-goal tries going in their favor -- Bahr's NFC title kick in San Francisco, Scott Norwood's miss in the Super Bowl, Bahr's kick in the season opener against the 49ers -- maybe New York simply ran out of luck.
"I knew I was in trouble when I heard that second impact," said Bahr, who had missed a 43-yard try and barely banked through a 35-yard attempt.
"It's bound to happen one of these times," said defensive back Everson Walls, who produced one of three turnovers for the Giants defense. "They've come up with so many big kicks, it's hard to say a bad word about the field-goal unit."
Instead, the Giants saved most of their displeasure for the team's strength -- defense. In a marvelous third quarter, the Giants defense provided the offense the ball in Chicago territory four times as a 13-point halftime deficit was erased.
But, ultimately, the defense gave up too many big plays. The clincher was a 42-yard sweep of a wide-open left end for Neal Anderson, who scored the winning touchdown at 8 minutes, 21 seconds of the fourth quarter. And, in the first half, there was a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jim Harbaugh to Wendell Davis just before halftime. In all, the Bears were out-gained, 337 yards to 307, but Chicago made the bigger plays.
"It's a good feeling to be 3-0 right now," said Harbaugh. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 221 yards, none tougher than a key third-and-10 delivery to Davis for 13 yards on the Bears' final scoring drive. "That may have been the biggest play of the game."
The Giants had theirs, too. Mark Collins intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble to atone for getting burned by Davis on the 75-yard touchdown. Rodney Hampton made his 1991 debut with 107 total yards and two touchdowns.
But after scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half, the Giants couldn't finish the task. "I really thought we were going to run them out of the stadium [after going up, 17-13]," Walls said. "But that Anderson run turned it around. That wiped out all the work we had done in the comeback."
And now the 1991 season is starting to look like one long comeback try for the Giants.