Loose lips can sink ships, as the World War II warning put it -- or as National Football League playoff hopefuls might say.
This figures to be the week of the zipped lip, now that Jack Pardee has made good his prediction that the Redskins would beat the Dallas Cowboys and John McKay of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has avenged a loss to the verbose New York Giants.
Ray Perkins of the Giants was treating himself for a sore tongue muscle and trying to explain what he really meant after Sunday's game when he was quoted as remarking, "The loss puts us in a spot where we pretty much are working on next year now."
He insisted he was referring to the Giants' 5-7 record as about eliminating them from the playoffs. "All our games are important," he said Monday. "Our next one is with the Redskins, so we will be out to beat Washington. We want to win our last four games. We always go into each game to win it."
He recalled that when he was an assistant coach last year with the San Diego Chargers, "We just about eliminated ourselves from playoff contention early (the Chargers lost three of their first four games), but finished so strong we just knew nobody could beat us (they won seven of the last eight games for a 9-7-record).
"That is having character, playing like that when you have nothing but pride to go on. I'd like to see our squad react in a positive way, so we end up looking forward to next season, rather than looking forward to the offseason."
In the first game with the Bucs, the Giants surprised them with a highly effective 3-4 defense and McKay said afterward that Perkins outcoached him. Was Perkins outcoached Sunday when Tampa Bay mainly used two new offensive formations?
"No, I don't think he outcoached me on Sunday," Perkins said. "And I don't think he was outcoached in our victory. It's not an excuse, but it's hard to play week after week like we had been."
Perkins said Sunday that rookie quarterback Phil Simms gave "his worst performance since taking over seven games ago." The Giants won five of those, losing to Dallas and to Tampa Bay.
Simms hit on 17 of 33 passes for 180 yards Sunday, was intercepted twice, sacked five times, and lost two of four fumbles, one of which was run back for a touchdown. He was forced out of the passing pocket and rushed four times for 25 yards.
"For the first time," Perkins said, "he didn't do the right thing with the football. A fumble, regardless of where, is the worst thing in football. I don't like to see him being a running back, because he's not a running back. I don't know if he made rookie mistakes, or just mistakes."
A scout for another club observed that, "Simms is a smooth runner; he seems to exert no effort when he scrambles (usually straight upfield)."
When the Buccaneers lost to the Giants in East Rutherford, 17-14, the Tampa Bay coaches thought their players were stage-fright victims of the crowd of 76,500. The Giants also provided plenty of verbal hassling, including the taunts of defensive end Gary Jeter, linebacker Harry Carson and tight end Gary Shirk. Jeter waved his hands and cheers a la Muhammad Ali, the same tactic he used when the Giants nearly upset the Cowboys.
This time, McKay told his Buccaneers, "Don't answer the Giants. Don't talk to them. Just play football."
Kirk Mee scouted the Giants for the Redskins Sunday and said, "The Buccaneers just played football; they are smelling playoffs and were hungry. When you get behind, you have to play catch-up, and that's almost like being at the Disadvantage of suddenly playing on a muddy field."
Mee thought New York might have been surprised by the new offensive formations. They enabled the Buccaneers to control New York's single-linerbacker blitzing, and the Bucs ran at will, with Ricky Bell having his best day, 152 yards in 22 carries, 102 in the first half.
The three defensive Giant linemen were widely split and the Buccaneer blockers split wider than usual to create biggeer gaps.
The Buccaneers used two tight ends with a flanker in motion, as they did last week against Detroit, but passed off 20 times against the Lions.
"This time, the Bucs ran from the formation," Mee said. "The blocking schemes must have bothered the Giants, or they were expecting mostly passes again. The Buccaneers used another formation with Bell as the lone set back, with two tight ends, and two wide receivers. They would shift before settling down for the snap of the ball and that seemed to bother the Giants. They had to 'sit' and 'read' for a moment and by the time they reacted, Tampa Bay backs were off and running."