Giants of old appear in time to save year With 0-3 looming, N.Y., Simms win 1st in Chicago since '62

September 22, 1992|By George Willis | George Willis,Newsday

CHICAGO -- It seemed like old times. Phil Simms was shaking his fists and jawing at the opposition. Pepper Johnson was butting heads with his defensive teammates, the New York Giants' defense was swarming and the offense was mounting the long, punishing drives that were once routine.

Ray Handley's Giants finally played like Giants last night while earning their first victory of the season, a 27-14 triumph over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

It was the Giants' first win in Chicago since Allie Sherman was coach in 1962 and their first win in five tries at Soldier Field. Debate all you want about how good the Bears (1-2) may or may not be, but no win was more needed than this one.

"It was fun to play again with some emotion," said Simms, who threw a pair of touchdown passes and looked not like an old Simms, but the Simms of old.

"We had to have this for the morale of the team and to give us any sort of reasonable confidence," said center Bart Oates. "Unless you find success through your efforts, it's hard to believe in yourself."

The Giants (1-2) can believe in themselves again. After battling to a 14-14 draw at halftime, they dominated the second half, much like they dominated the Bears in the 1990 NFC playoff game. While the defense pitched a shutout, the Giants scored on their first three possessions: a 13-yard touchdown pass from Simms to Stephen Baker and field goals of 31 and 32 yards by Matt Bahr.

All the pieces that had been in hibernation suddenly came to life. Simms, hitting the sideline routes, completed 19 of 30 passes for 220 yards. Rodney Hampton rushed for 94 yards on 22 carries. Even Jarrod Bunch came though after an early fumble with his best outing as a pro, running for 39 yards, and David Meggett helped set up Bahr's final field goal with a 39-yard punt return.

The quiet heroes were Baker, who went into the game with one reception but caught seven passes for 109 yards, and a beleaguered defense that totally shut down the Bears in the second half.

"We were out-coached, we were outplayed and we were out-hit," said Bears coach Mike Ditka. "They deserved to win the game. If we don't correct a few things in every area that I mentioned, we're going to have a long, hard season, there is no question about it."

Handley wouldn't hide the importance of the win. The Giants couldn't fall to 0-3 and expect to have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

"This is very important to us," Handley said. "We didn't want to go three down. We needed to get a win. We needed to get some confidence."

The Giants won as they always have won: with ball control and defense. They kept the ball for 38:14 and allowed the Bears only 99 yards rushing. The Bears had only 74 total yards in the second half compared to the Giants' 204. Also credit an offensive line that adjusted to the Bears' surprise use of a six-man front and still cleared out for 172 rushing yards.

The game ball went to offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, whose father, William "Bud" Fassel, died last Tuesday in an auto accident.

"We didn't try to hide the fact that this could have been our season," Simms said. "Starting off 0-3 would have been tough. We just played hard and never gave up."

The first half ended 14-14 as the teams alternated touchdowns. Neal Anderson (56 yards rushing) scored on an 8-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh for a 7-0 Bears lead, and Brad Muster took a short pass from Harbaugh and escaped the grasps of Steve DeOssie, Johnson and Everson Walls en route to a 44-yard score and a 14-7 Bears advantage. But the Giants countered with a 15-yard TD pass from Simms to Howard Cross and a 1-yard run by Hampton that was set up by Walls' interception.

The second half belonged to the Giants. They opened with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard TD pass from Simms to Baker, and their next two series ended with Bahr field goals.

By then, the Giants' defense was smothering the Bears, who punted three straight times before losing their final possession on downs.

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