No two foes are more familiar with each other than the Packers and Bears, as the clubs meet for the 164th time (including one postseason game), the most in NFL history. But this week, the venue for the first 2002 installment of the venerable series – which dates back to 1921 and has taken place every year since, with the exception of 1922 and 1982 – is different.
The University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign is the site of tonight's encounter, and the school is intertwined with the Bears from the origins of the franchise. Team founder George Halas lettered in football, basketball and baseball for the Fighting Illini, and is honored as one of the university's most distinguished alumni. Halas chose the school colors, blue and orange, as the Bears' colors in a tribute to his alma mater.
"Monday Night Football is great for this rivalry," said Bears head coach Dick Jauron, a veteran of four Monday night games during his playing career with Detroit (1973-77) and Cincinnati (1978-80). "The players like it because everybody they know gets to see it. The whole football world is watching, and they will do everything they can to respond to that."
For Bears third-year cornerback Todd McMillon, whose football journey has included games in Canada, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom as a member of the NFL Europe League's Frankfurt Galaxy and Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders, this is the ultimate stage.
"Every guy who plays ball has a dream to play on Monday Night Football," says McMillon. "And to play in the biggest rivalry in the history of the NFL on a Monday night, it can't get any better than that. It's going to be a rough night of sleep on Sunday."
The 3-1 Packers and 2-2 Bears meet for the first time as NFC North rivals and the first time on Monday night since Sept. 1, 1997, when Green Bay opened defense of its Super Bowl XXXI championship with a 38-24 victory at Lambeau Field.
Like he has done throughout his career, Packers quarterback Brett Favre led the way, passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Favre has had great success against his club's most passionate rival, guiding Green Bay to a 16-4 record against Chicago. In those 20 starts, Favre has thrown for 4,719 yards, 39 touchdowns and 20 interceptions for an impressive 93.2 passer rating.
"Every time we play the Bears, it's a crazy atmosphere," says Favre. "I know how much the game means to our fans and to Bears fans. It means a lot to us as players as well. It's one of the great rivalries in football and always will be. That's why it has lasted so long and that's why it will