The numbers and the believers keep hopping on the Bearwagon.

Chicago squashed Dallas, 44-0, Sunday in Texas to strut to 11-0. With five weeks yet to play, the Bears have clinched the NFC Central Division title. That's the baseball equivalent of clinching the division crown with 50 games to play.

They are, for certain, the Monsters of the Midfield. But it is true that Miami started 11-0 last year, then struck bottom in the Super Bowl.

Yet, the Bears are packed with awe-stars. They've beaten the teams of Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs and Tom Landry by an aggregate 115-20 and that breeds a certain self-confidence. The 44 points scored Sunday represents five more than Chicago has given up in its last six games combined.

"I've never been on an 11-0 team," said running back Walter Payton, "not even in sandlot football."

The 44-point loss was the worst in Dallas history. "It's something I call the 'piranha effect,' " Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton said. "If we smell blood, we go into a frenzy. We go after their ball-carriers and go after their receivers."

John McVay, San Francisco's general manager, says these Bears remind him of the 49ers during their 18-1 march through last season. "Everything they try, works," said McVay. "They don't worry about their mistakes. They just play.

"I heard the 44-0 score when I was at (Candlestick Park) and right away I thought what might have happened: that there must have been big plays, turnovers and some Cowboys must have been knocked out of the game. And that's what happened.

"You don't expect the Cowboys to get beat or to get shut out. There are some things you expect -- that's not one of them. You figured going in that the Bears might win, could win and should win, but . . . obviously we were shocked by this."

Terry Bledsoe, Buffalo's general manager, said he followed the Bears-Cowboys score on the message board in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium Sunday. "It was like a cash register," he said.

Bledsoe said he knows how difficult it is to beat Dallas in Texas Stadium, seeing as how the Giants failed in all five attempts when Bledsoe was one of their club executives. It also reminded him of how long it's been since Dallas lost a home game so decisively. Fifteen years, to be precise.

"I remember I was on the Milwaukee Journal bowling team on a Monday night in 1970 when St. Louis beat Dallas, 38-0, and Don Meredith kissed off the Cowboys on TV," Bledsoe said.

Bobby Beathard, the Redskins' general manager, said he watched the Bears-Cowboys game on TV. He said that watching quarterback Steve Fuller replace McMahon and seeing the Bears continue on their pulverizing pace reminded him of Miami in 1972. That was the last NFL team to finish a season with a perfect record.

"(Quarterback) Bob Griese broke his leg and the Dolphins still went 17-0 that year. I watched the way (Coach) Don Shula operated the team and with (Earl) Morrall in as quarterback, nothing skipped a beat," said Beathard, who was Miami's player personnel director at the time. "The whole team played better and then Griese came back for the playoffs.

"I said early this year that the only thing that could beat the Bears is if they came out flat. (But) they haven't been to the Super Bowl, so I don't think they will come out flat. They really seem to be playing for a cause, whether it's for Walter Payton or what.

"I can't see anybody beating them, barring injuries. Here they lose their starting quarterback and don't play any different."

Russ Thomas, Detroit's general manager, said the 44-0 final Sunday reminded him of just last week -- when the Bears played without McMahon, cornerback Mike Richardson and, for the most part, without wide receiver Dennis McKinnon. They still beat the Lions by three touchdowns.

"The Bears are for real, not maybes," Thomas said. However, Thomas doesn't think the Bears will finish the regular season 16-0. "I think the moral (of 44-0) is that somebody will upset the Bears," Thomas said. "That's been the history of our game."

Ernie Accorsi, executive vice president/personnel for Cleveland, said "It's incredible the way kids who weren't even born at the time when the Bears established their reputation have come in and are now in that same mold of the old Bears. They are a great team and that's not a word I throw around lightly. There are so many things they can do; they are on the brink of a run of championships.

"Defensively, they are punishing and force you into mistakes. Offensively, they have the greatest running back who ever lived and a world-class sprinter and are strong enough (on the offensive line) to jam the ball down your throats . . . Everything is going right for them now. They had a great running back sitting there for 10 years and now they've built a team around him."

Mike McCormack, Seattle's general manager, said he saw the first quarter of the Bears-Cowboys on TV, then heard the 44-0 final in the third quarter of the Seahawks-Patriots game at the Kingdome.

"I was shocked," McCormack said. "To win that handily in Texas Stadium without McMahon, who I gather is their spiritual guru or something, is a credit to Mike Ditka and his staff.

"It has been a gradual progression for the Bears. They've been drafting well over a period of time. They've got a number of No. 1 draft choices on the offensive line. It's been five or six years of accumulating those people and McMahon is the catalyst.

"The Bears of the '60s and '70s had an inconsistent offense and a very physical defensive football team. They would make you look bad, look bad, look bad and then you could burn them because they gambled. It doesn't seem like they are allowing that to happen anymore."

McMahon has tendinitis in his right shoulder and it's still unclear when he'll return. He has missed 14 of a possible 54 games since he came to the Bears in 1982.

This makes Fuller, a seven-year veteran, even more important. Payton has carried the Bears' offense for a long time. In fact, the Bears haven't had an offensive player other than Payton make the Pro Bowl since wide receiver Dick Gordon was honored in 1972.

Now, as the Bearwagon grows crowded, Fuller cautions, "We don't want to act like this is the end of the road."