CHICAGO -- The road to Canton, Ohio, ran through the Windy City yesterday for Art Monk.
Just like all those other one-night stands in his 12-year NFL career, Soldier Field turned into a three-hour primer on why the Washington Redskins' soft-spoken wide receiver one day will occupy a choice spot in Pro Football's Hall of Fame.
If it's locker room oratory you need, try another locker. If it's a big third-down play you're looking for, go to Monk.
In desperate need of an offensive spark, the Redskins went to Monk 11 times yesterday. He didn't disappoint. He delivered six receptions, five first downs, two touchdowns and 74 total yards in another virtuoso performance.
The payoff was a 20-7 victory over the Chicago Bears, the Redskins' sixth straight in a thus-far unbeaten season.
"Our defense kept giving us opportunities," said Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 168 yards. "Our offense needed to find a kick-start, and Art was the guy who got us going early."
Monk makes the sweetest music a quarterback can hear. It is the kind of music that would make proud his second cousin, the late jazz musician Thelonious Monk.
In an afternoon when the offense played out of tune, he struck all the right notes.
Monk made the Bears pay for soft zone coverage in the second quarter with a 26-yard touchdown catch that sent the Skins up 10-0.
In the fourth quarter, after the Bears got within 10-7 on a Neal Anderson touchdown, Monk gave the Redskins a finishing kick, too.
It was his leaping catch of a 12-yard pass on fourth-and-four that kept another touchdown drive alive. He got hammered by two defenders on the play when Rypien's high pass left him vulnerable.
Then he beat John Mangum to the left corner of the end zone on a crossing route for a 5-yard touchdown pass to cap the series and squelch the Bears' would-be comeback.
"I hate to throw the ball when I know the receiver is going to get drilled," Rypien said wistfully. "But sometimes I have to. He made TTC a great play. I had to put the ball in that spot [to avoid an interception] and I said, 'Don't get hurt . . .' "
That has been the secret to Monk's longevity with the Redskins since he came out of Syracuse as a first-round draft choice in 1980. "Staying healthy, that's the key," he said.
At 33, the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Monk is a veritable fountain of youth with the Redskins. Seven years after he set a league record with 106 receptions in one season, he is fast closing in on hallowed ground.
His six catches against the Bears gives him 749 in his wondrous career. He needs just two more -- and should get them next week at home against Cleveland -- to pass Charlie Joiner for second place on the NFL's all-time list. Monk is the leading active receiver in the league.
"It's a thought because it's there and I'm close," he said of second place. "But I don't like to think about those things because it distracts me."
While he admits Joiner is on his mind, Monk doesn't want to think about the NFL's all-time leading pass catcher, Steve Largent, whose mark of 819 is well within reach.
"He's a long way off," Monk said. "I'm more concerned with contributing to this team and helping us win games. As long as I do that, the records will come."
He has caught at least one pass in 122 consecutive games in a streak that dates to Oct. 2, 1983. That streak ranks fourth on the all-time list.
Despite whispers that he has lost a step, Monk is still a threat to go deep. In six games this season he has 19 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns. His average gain per catch is 15.1 yards, better than his 13.6 career average.
"Art Monk is what his first name is . . . art," said Bears linebacker Mike Singletary. "He's a great player and I have tremendous respect for him.
"He caught two touchdowns and made a big [fourth-down] catch today. I don't believe that stuff about losing a step. I don't think he's lost anything."
He certainly hasn't lost his will to win. Monk, the consummate professional, is a selfless team player who avoids the spotlight whenever possible.
The Hall of Fame can wait. Before Canton, there is another, more compelling, pit stop he wants to make first. This season's Super Bowl will be held in Minneapolis. At 6-0, the Redskins are quickly becoming the team to beat in the NFC.