Added Jennings, "That's how the Monsters of the Midway played."
The Monsters nickname originated with the University of Chicago, which was bordered on one end by an area known as Midway Plaisance. When the Maroons disbanded their football program in 1939, the Bears adopted the moniker and used it as their calling card during NFL championship runs in 1940, '41, '43 and '46. "There's a connection with them," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa says of those old Bears teams. "I'll admit, I was pretty ignorant about the whole Monsters of the Midway thing. You hear about it growing up—and other nicknames like Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain and Orange Crush, but you really don't know a lot about the guys behind it. I think the aura of that, the mentality, we've kind of connected with that—just playing dominating defense."
Little did Lovie Smith realize when he set out to reconnect with the past that he would be facing the Packers for the right to play in the Super Bowl. The league's oldest rivalry has featured such greats as Nagurski, Butkus, Grange, Halas, Payton and Sayers; and Starr, Hornung, Hutson, Nitschke, Lombardi, White and Favre. Yet as much as the names will dominate the headlines, the game could come down to players whose stories remain a mystery to casual fans. Idonije is a former special-teamer who was supposed to play a backup role at best. Instead, when the Bears cut Mark Anderson in early October, Idonije stepped in and finished the season tied with Peppers for the team lead in sacks, with eight. Chicago drafted Melton in the fourth round in 2009, but the 6'3", 260-pound defensive lineman was so underwhelming that some observers questioned whether he would get a second season with the Bears. He has since developed into a solid presence in nickel situations, using his quickness to penetrate gaps or occupying blockers so Peppers or Idonije can get free.
"That's the good thing about our team," says Melton. "We have guys getting paid [millions of dollars] and whatnot, and we have guys who are getting the league minimum, but everybody is giving it up and being held to the same standard. Our goal from the beginning was getting back to that Monsters of the Midway mentality—that physical, tough, relentless, making-plays defense where everybody has a role and they have to do their part to make it work. We've done that this year."