Giants Can't Hold Bears To Lovie's Promise

Lovie Smith swore the Bears would go full-out to beat the Packers Sunday, which would complete the clinching of a playoff berth if the Giants beat the Redskins. But really, is Smith truly to be believed?

The year was 1988 and the Giants had just lost to the Jets in a regular-season finale that, with a win, would have put them in the playoffs.

They still had a chance as the evening wore on, however. All a then-great San Francisco squad had to do was beat the Rams out west, and the Giants were in. But one got the feeling that things wouldn't quite go that way when a reporter called Giants quarterback Phil Simms at home.

So, the question went. Whatcha doing?

"Oh," said a mightily ticked off Simms. "I'm just sitting here watching the 49ers lay down like dogs."

Final score: Rams 38, 49ers 16. Giants go 10-6 but don't make the playoffs.

The more times change, as they say. Here are the Giants again, at 9-6 needing a win at Washington and a Bears win over the Packers. Only time will tell if the Bears, all but locked into the No. 2 playoff seed, will lay down against the Packers.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said they won't. Some of defensive tackle Barry Cofield's friends on the Bears called him and said they're playing Sunday's game to win.

Coaches have been known to reserve the right to change their minds, though. So, the question is, do you really believe Smith when he announces an all-out effort?

Maybe not. Oh, it'll start off all right. And if the Bears are winning, there is little doubt Smith will pull in the reins. The tricky part is, what if Green Bay springs out to an early lead? What if the score is 14-0 or 21-7 at halftime? What then? Can the Giants expect some sort of heroic comeback on the arm of Jay Cutler? Or might Smith just decide that one half of hard football is enough for his playoff-bound troops. Maybe it's better to pull Cutler and Matt Forte and Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers, keep all in one piece, and get the heck out of Dodge, er, Green Bay, for a bye week of rest and recovery.

This puts the Giants in a heck of a spot. Even if they beat Washington, they still need Smith's Bears to beat Green Bay to nail down the sixth seed. Otherwise, it's 10-6 and no playoffs, just like the Parcells Giants of '88. And like those 49ers, the Giants can't rely on the Bears to keep their word about an all-out attack.

Of course, the Bears might just be in an accommodating mood. Some history shows that even with the playoffs guaranteed, a team will play hard and try to win a meaningless contest. The Giants did it in 2007 after they had clinched the fifth seed. When half the world thought Coughlin should have wrapped Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning in bubble wrap at halftime or earlier, Coughlin played undefeated New England to win.

They didn't, of course. But their valiant effort in a 38-35 loss marked the beginning of an incredible ride that ended with those same Giants beating those same, still-undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

The Giants, of course, weren't looking forward to a bye week. They had to go right on the road and play Tampa Bay. The Bears will await the results of Wildcard Weekend.

It wouldn't be outlandish to see Smith go back on his word if the Bears fall behind quickly. Or even if they don't. No matter what Smith said, keeping the roster healthy is far more important at this point than getting an 11th win, even if it would mean knocking a tough division rival out of the playoffs.

What Smith told the Chicago media this week may have given the Giants comfort at a time when they needed a group hug.

They just shouldn't be foolish enough to hold Smith to his word.

At least they won't be getting all grumpy watching it on TV. The Bears and Packers kick off at the same time as the Giants.

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