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Defense Dominates With Six Turnovers, Two Touchdowns


CHICAGO - Defensive players relish any chance they have to get into the end zone, and two Packers did that for the first time in their careers on Sunday night.

Safety Nick Collins and nickel cornerback Patrick Dendy each returned interceptions for touchdowns in the first half against the Chicago Bears, helping stake the Packers to a 23-0 halftime lead en route to a 26-7 victory at Soldier Field.

Collins made his big play with an instinctive read, jumping a short out route by Chicago tight end Desmond Clark, picking off Rex Grossman's pass, and racing 55 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Packers a 13-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter.

"It felt great," Collins said. "I'm used to getting in the end zone from college and high school. My first time as a pro, though, that felt great."

Collins, a second-year pro, was coming off a promising rookie season but hadn't made the big-play impact many expected of him this season. A key interception three weeks ago in San Francisco helped start Green Bay's four-game winning streak and began a strong finish to the season for Collins, who added a second interception Sunday night midway through the fourth quarter to turn away the Bears in the red zone.

"I'm capable of doing that every week," said Collins, who never lacks for confidence and nearly had a third interception in the game as well. "Once I get in the flow of things, and they just let me play, you'll see a whole lot of that."

Dendy, a reserve cornerback elevated to the nickel role when Ahmad Carroll was released earlier this season, was in the right place at the right time in the final minute of the first half.

Just after the Packers had grabbed a 16-0 lead on a Dave Rayner field goal, Grossman had his pass tipped at the line by Corey Williams, and Dendy snagged the deflection just above his shoetops. He returned it 30 yards for the score with 34 seconds left in the first half.

The two touchdowns were part of a turnover-fest by the Packers' defense. Green Bay got four turnovers in the first half alone, including the recovery of a fumbled snap by Ryan Pickett and an interception by Charles Woodson.

{sportsad300}Woodson dove in front of Rashied Davis to make his eighth interception of the season, extending his career-high and tying him for tops in the NFC this season with San Francisco's Walt Harris.

Woodson finished 2006 tied for the third in the NFL in interceptions, two behind the 10 picks by Denver's Champ Bailey and New England's Asante Samuel.

"Charles Woodson is as instinctive a defensive back as I've ever been around," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

The defense added a fifth turnover in the second half when linebacker A.J. Hawk intercepted a pass by backup quarterback Brian Griese intended for Clark. Collins' second pick, and the defense's sixth turnover, also came against Griese on a pass for Muhsin Muhammad in the red zone.

The overall defensive effort capped a superb finish to the 2006 season. Ranked as low as 29th in the league just a few weeks ago, the Packers did not allow a touchdown to the Lions or Vikings in consecutive games, and nearly stretched the streak to 11 quarters before Griese's 75-yard TD strike to Mark Bradley with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.

"They stayed the course, and I've said it before, you just see the continuity and confidence," McCarthy said.

"You could really say the last four to five weeks, we played as good a defense as anybody in the National Football League."

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