DA HIBERNATING BEARS
At one point in the Packers' decisive 17-3 victory over the Bears on Sunday, Chicago linebacker Mike Singletary watched as a Green Bay player got up after making a big gain and spun the ball on the turf. Then the Packer, whom Singletary refused to name, started talking some trash. "I stared at the guy like I couldn't believe he was doing this to us at Soldier Field," said a downcast Singletary. "And I started thinking back, right out there on the field, to '85, '86, '87, and what it was like around here. It used to be that teams would play us and their guys would be lucky to get up after our defense Rot through with them.
"I can remember our players foaming at the mouth, wanting to hit guys over and over again, hoping guys would come in their area so they could splatter them. I'd say to them, 'Please don't hit him like that again! Please!' And they'd just keep hitting."
"Now," Singletary, 34, said, shaking his head, "instead of having a bunch of guys flying to the ball, I go into the huddle and say, 'C'mon! C'mon! Let's go!' Then I look into their eyes, and I can see it. They're just not with me."
They certainly weren't with him on Sunday. When was the last time Green Bay was unquestionably the better team in a game against Chicago? Ten years ago?
Embattled Bear coach Mike Ditka lit a fat cigar in his office after the debacle, which dropped Chicago to 4-7 for the first time since 1983, and dispassionately discussed his future. He said he would be back to honor the last year of his contract, which runs through '93. "People can say what they want," said Ditka, "but I love my job, and I still love doing it, despite what's happened this year. I'm a big boy. I've been the fair-haired guy in this city for a long time. I can take the heat. But as far as this team goes, we have to have an identity again, and I'm not sure we have one right now. We've got to fight to get it back."
Singletary, who will retire after the season, believes the Bears can become their monstrous selves again, but, he says, "the guys have to talk about it, dream about it, work for it, want it." Referring to former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, Singletary added, "We used to have a coach around here who'd say, 'If a puppy doesn't bite when he's a puppy, he's not going to all of a sudden start biting when he gets to be a dog."
STATS OF THE WEEK
•Tampa Bay's 29-14 loss to the Chargers dropped the Buccaneers' record in games that they've played in California to 1-14. The only win came in 1980, when Garo Yepremian's 30-yard field goal with 47 seconds to play beat the 49ers 24-23.
•The Viking defense has scored six TDs and allowed only five in November.
•The Cowboys will have played before 16 sellouts by the end of the regular season. No NFL team has done that since Dallas did it in 1981.
•Friday is the fourth anniversary of the last 100-yard rushing game by a Cleveland Brown: On Nov. 27, 1988, Kevin Mack ran for 116 yards against the Redskins.
Doug Flutie is in the Big One. No, not the Super Bowl. Flutie, coming off his second straight 5,000-yard passing season in the Canadian Football League, scored on a three-yard run with 19 seconds left on Sunday to lead Calgary to a 23-22 win over Edmonton in the CFL's Western Division title game. Calgary plays Winnipeg for the Grey Cup on Sunday in Toronto.... A sign behind the Falcon bench in Buffalo, hung during the loss that dropped Atlanta's record to 4-7: "Answers: 1. A bald tire; 2. Willard Scott's scalp; 3. Glanville's style of coaching. Question: Name three things that have worn very thin."
GAME OF THE WEEK
Miami at New Orleans, Sunday. Home field advantage in the playoffs is huge in the AFC, where the host team has won 13 straight postseason games. In the battle for that advantage, among AFC front-runners, Miami (8-3) faces the toughest task in the next two weeks, with road games against the Saints and the 49ers. In the same span the Bills (9-2) play the Colts and the Jets, and the Steelers (8-3) meet the Bengals and the Seahawks.
THE END ZONE
Patriot quarterback Scott Zolak is 2-0 filling in for injured incumbent Hugh Millen (0-6), who is close to returning from a shoulder injury. Here's how New England offensive coordinator Dick Coury explained the quarterback situation after Sunday's 24-3 victory over the Jets: "If you're the starter and you lose a job through injury, you're a starter again when you're healthy. That's the way it's always been around here. If he's healthy, Millen will be the starter next week. But that doesn't always mean he's the starter."
Long a Bastion of star quarterbacks, the AFC is beginning to lose the arms race. Through 11 games this season, NFC passers have a surprisingly large lead over their AFC counterparts in most cumulative passing categories, including a 9.2 bulge in quarterback rating. Here's all you need to know about the state of AFC passers this year: Mike Tomczak of the Browns, Stan Humphries of the Chargers and Hugh Millen of the Patriots are among the conference's top eight signal-callers-and all three are NFC rejects.
The two conferences were virtually even in passing statistics over the past five years, but this fall the NFC is wav out front.