[Mike Ditka] learned a lot about football from the Cowboys, and the Cowboys learned a lot about tough from Ditka. Mike had been an All-American at Pittsburgh in the days when ends played both ways, and he was so uninterested in pain that when he went to the dentist for an infected tooth once, he told him to pull all his front teeth. They were getting to be a bother.
The Chicago Bears of those days were so tough themselves that, rumor had it, the tackling dummy was made out of brick, but Ditka was considered the roughest thing to hit Chicago since Dillinger. He caught 75 passes one season, but his great strength was passing out nosebleeds. [Mike Ditkas] art was getting cornerbacks to flinch before the ball was in the air. It was guys like Ditka who gave NFC Central teams the nickname "the black-and-blue division."
Before Ditka, the Bears were mostly blue. They approached the game like polo. Ditka reinstalled the iron-wrist game of the Nagurskis, Osmanskis, Casareses, Butkuses, the "knock somebody down, help them up and knock them down again" school of play. You may have noticed. No la-de-da "flex" defense for the reborn Monsters of the Midway this year, no "nickel backs" or rotating zones. The Bears just line up seven to nine men and come at you like cops raiding a crap game in a cellar.