CHICAGO, SEPT. 15 -- The Chicago Bears look at Monday night's trouncing of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants as a simple matter of claiming what was rightfully theirs all along. It wasn't sanctioned as a title bout, but, by virtue of their 34-19 victory, the Bears unofficially are back in the No. 1 spot in the National Football League.

They stood atop Phil Simms' sacked body, beating their chests to warn anybody else who dares get in the way. "I was ready to kick their you-know-whats," Bears linebacker Otis Wilson said afterward. "If we play the way we're supposed to play, we'll beat anybody."

The Giants are certainly in no position to argue, having been beaten so soundly. The defending champions converted only three first downs the entire game. The Giants' supposedly impenetrable defense allowed 416 yards, while their rushing offense was held to 75 yards.

New York defensive end Leonard Marshall said: "We can't do what we did tonight against anyone, not even if it's Indianapolis."

Coach Bill Parcells was equally upset. "I'm extremely disappointed," he said. "We had a lot of poor individual performances. Our special teams were very poor and that hurt us. They beat us real good, the first time in a long time we lost like that {the last time was in January 1986, 21-0, at Soldier Field}. I thought they did what they wanted to and we didn't do much about it."

That was most obvious in the line play. The Giants' offensive line allowed Simms to be sacked seven times. He tried to take some of the heat off his offensive line today by saying he should have gotten rid of the ball sooner on a couple of passes.

Wilson loved that one. "He stood there and took his lickings," he said of Simms. "But regardless of who was back there, {Monday} night was our night."

A man known to be a little less verbose than Wilson, defensive coordinator Vince Tobin, said of his players: "The defense went a long first step toward showing who's the best in the National Football League, at least for one night."

For one night the Bears recaptured their 1985 Super Bowl form even though quarterback Jim McMahon is still out of the lineup and even though Walter Payton played a significantly reduced role. Payton may have no role at all Sunday against Tampa Bay because the Bears announced today that he severely sprained his right ankle in the first half Monday night. If he cannot play, it would be the first time in 170 games.

But his absence isn't the catastrophe it would have been two years ago for the Bears. Neal Anderson, who rushed 62 yards and caught six passes for 81, is clearly becoming the Bears' primary offensive weapon. Payton did, however, neutralize linebacker Lawrence Taylor with some stunning man-to-man blocking.

And McMahon's replacement, Mike Tomczak, realized that the first duty of a Bears quarterback -- considering the strength of the defense -- is simply not to mess up. He took it a step further and completed 20 of 34 passes for 292 yards. But it's too soon to think him a savior. He threw two interceptions, and the touchdown to Morris should have been picked off.

Still, Tomczak's one-yard sneak near the end of the first half provided a 10-3 lead after the Giants had opened a 7-0 lead. His 42-yard touchdown pass to impressive rookie Ron Morris put Chicago up by 17-7 early in the third and that was quickly followed by a 56-yard pass to Willie Gault for 24-7. The Bears also got a club-record 94-yard punt return for a touchdown from Dennis McKinnon.

Last year the Bears generated virtually no offense when McMahon wasn't playing and they still won 14 of 16 games. Is there a limit for a team that can also burn the second-best defense in the league for 416 yards?

Simms clearly was impressed. "I think they're a little more stable than they were before," he said. "In '85 {the Super Bowl year}, they'd make a mistake every once in a while that gave you a chance at a big play."

He did allow himself one bit of relief. "We're not going to play the Chicago Bears every week," he said.