Packers whip Bears in season finale, 26-7

In a season of highs and lows, the Green Bay Packers saved their best for last Sunday night, despite knowing that they were eliminated from the NFC playoffs prior to kickoff against the Chicago Bears. The Packers forced six Bears turnovers, including four in the first half and went on to a 26-7 victory to finish the season with a four-game winning streak and an 8-8 record.

Whether or not Brett Favre played his final game with the Packers remains to be seen, but the veteran quarterback finished on a high note, leaving many to believe that he will return for the 2007 season. Also, Favre is six touchdown passes short of Dan Marino's NFL touchdown record of 420, and one win shy of John Elway's NFL record of 148.

Afterward, he tearfully hinted that he's seriously considering retirement, as he did in the last offseason.

"If this is my last game, I want to remember it," Favre said, his voice cracking and tears streaming from his eyes, in an interview with NBC's Andrea Kramer. "It's tough. I love these guys. I love this game. What a great way to go out against a great football team. I couldn't ask for a better way to get out."

Favre said he will let the Packers know within "the next couple weeks" of his plan for next season. He completed 21 of 42 passes for 285 yards with one interception against the playoff-bound Bears.

Favre connected on a 9-yard touchdown pass with wide receiver Donald Driver to cap Green Bay's first drive of the game as the Packers got out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back.

The Packers went 5-1 in the NFC North Division for second place, and beat the Bears (13-3) for the first time since the final game of the 2004 regular season (Jan. 2, 2005) at Soldier Field.

"I'm very pleased with the progress that we made and the way we finished down the stretch," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "To beat our arch-rival Bears is pretty sweet."

The Packers capitalized on four Chicago turnovers in the first half, including Patrick Dendy's 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the second quarter, to bolt to a 23-0 lead. Green Bay intercepted Grossman three times, and the beleaguered Bears quarterback completed just two of 12 passes for 33 yards for a passer rating of 0.0 before he was replaced at halftime by Brian Griese.

Chicago is the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed and has Super Bowl aspirations, but looked nothing like a contender, especially with Grossman reverting to his midseason form, when he threw 14 interceptions in seven games.

"I'm trying to figure that out myself," Grossman said, when asked what happened. "It's my job to figure out why I had games like this and fix it."

Favre threw his 18th interception of the season late in the first quarter into the hands of cornerback Nathan Vasher, who returned the ball to Green Bay's 35. But five plays later, safety Nick Collins jumped tight end Desmond Clark's short route in the left flat, picked off Grossman's pass and returned it untouched 55 yards for his second interception of the season and first NFL touchdown. Dave Rayner's extra point hit the left upright and was no good, leaving Green Bay ahead 13-0.

Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett recovered a fumbled Bears snap, and Favre hit wide receiver Ruvell Martin for 34 yards to move the Packers to the Bears 19. Green Bay's drive stalled at the 14 when tight end Donald Lee dropped a pass from Favre on third down, Rayner missed badly to the left from 32 yards out, keeping the score 13-0.

But Dendy's interception return for his first NFL touchdown, one play after Rayner's 25-yard field goal gave the Packers a commanding 23-0 halftime lead.

Griese found wide receiver Mark Bradley open over the middle for a 75-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left in the third quarter, the first touchdown that the Packers' defense has given up since the third quarter of Green Bay's 30-19 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 10.

"I can't say enough about our defense," said McCarthy. "Bob Sanders and the staff stayed the course. It's been fun to watch in the past five weeks. They have really come together."

Rayner padded Green Bay's lead to 26-7 by making a 46-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.

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