NEW ORLEANS

How would you like to see that coming at you? I'm only guessing now, but how secure do you think Tom Ramsey, the Patriots' third-string quarterback, felt wearing that headset on the sideline? Pretend you're Ramsey, and you've watched Tony Eason unwind like a ball of string, then you're watching Steve Grogan careening around out there like a pinball, and all that stands between you and the 46 defense is one word from Raymond Berry. I mean, you're Ramsey, what are you thinking? Please, coach, let me stay on the phones. Don't put me in there. I'm only 24 years old, I've got my whole life ahead of me.

Let me repeat the question: How would you like to see that coming at you? It's only a matter of time now until Buddy Ryan's name is mentioned in connection with a bigger job. No, not a head coaching job -- the cabinet, Secretary of Defense. If I were Caspar Weinberger, I'd check the fine print in my contract. You think Star Wars is an effective defense? We put the 46 out in space, and the Russians will beg us to come to the negotiating table. Okay, we see your 3,500 ICBMs and raise you one Richard Dent, an Otis Wilson and a Dan Hampton. Your move, Ivan.

One last time: How would you like to see that coming at you? Tony Eason did. For about a quarter and a half, anyway. You think you've had bad days? How would you like to be sitting at Eason's locker? He's probably still trying to call his insurance broker to see if he has collision. Eason wasn't just bad, he was terrible. He came out throwing from down one, and he hasn't completed anything yet. Here are some stats he'll want to put through the shredder: 0 for 6 passing; three sacks for minus-28 yards; one fumble. He looked like a deer staring into a pair of high-beams. He was paralyzed out there, frozen stiff. They couldn't have warmed him up in a microwave.

"When I looked into his eyes, I saw the same eyes I saw the last time we played, the second game of the season," said Mike Singletary, referring to the 20-7 Bears victory in September in which Eason threw three interceptions. "I saw confusion in his eyes. I saw he was rattled. I saw -- 'Man, I hope we're not in for another one of these.' And I thought, let's go get him."

Unfortunately for New England, the Bears got to Eason before Raymond Berry did. Berry came out with the right game plan. Too bad he didn't have the right team -- Miami. The Patriots passed, or attempted to pass, their first six plays. On the seventh play Eason rested and handed the ball off to Craig James. James got no gain, and now that the Patriots felt they had clearly established the run, they went back to attempting to pass. Had Eason not fumbled, there's no telling whom he might have overthrown.

Eason denied being either confused or rattled, accusing Singletary of hindsight. "We were on top of everything. It was just a matter of executing," Eason said after the game. "They had all the lanes blocked." The Bears defense, he said admiringly, was by far the best he had seen all year. "They have a great scheme and great talent."

It was already 20-3 when Berry commuted Eason's sentence and sent in Grogan. But with 5:08 still left in the second quarter, this was one of the quickest yanks since Steinbrenner fired Yogi. "(Berry) said he wanted a change of scenery, as simple as that," Eason said of the decision to send in Grogan. "I was surprised," Eason said, making him the only one. Grogan had more success than Eason, but that's like choosing between measles and chicken pox.

"Really, when they let Grogan in, the momentum had already swung to our side," Singletary said. "They were so far behind, it didn't matter who they put in." By then, the Patriots were in a must-throw situation. You don't ever want to be in a must-throw situation against the Bears. Then again, I can think of lots of situations you don't want to be in against the Bears, beginning with a dark alley.

Is it my imagination, or did the score keep getting higher and higher, faster and faster? The bad news for Grogan was that the Bears kept scoring. The worse news was that they kept doing it quickly, and he kept having to go back out there against that defense. What was the ultimate insult? A tough call. Either The Fridge gaining as many yards -- in four fewer carries -- than James. Or the fact that Jim McMahon was wearing gloves indoors. On and on, and on and on it went. Had the game gone much longer, it would have been eligible for an Emmy in the category of Most Anti-Climactic Drama Series.

There is some good news locally to report: With 6:16 left in the third quarter, the Redskins got off one hook. The Bears pushed the score to 37-3 at that point, creating a 34-point margin, more than the Super Bowl record 29 by which the Raiders had beaten the Redskins two years ago.

Later on, when the Bears scored point No. 46 on Henry Waechter's safety, they erased the Redskins from another infamous mark; the 45 points against the Redskins were the most the Bears had previously scored this season. Alas, the big one remains. Not even these Patriots would be beaten 73-0 in a championship game. That is ours, and is likely to stay so.