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Cheese Curds, 12/27: Packers' rejuvenated pass rush helps force key turnovers

Green Bay has seen an uptick in pass rushing productivity lately, which has helped the defense as a whole in taking the football away from opponents.

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Wm. Glasheen-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers just aren't the same when they have a pass rush that can't get to the quarterback. That has been proven on different occasions this season - look at the fourth quarter of the Bears game in week 15 or at the Titans game for examples of the defense struggling when the opposing quarterback has time to throw.

Thankfully for the defense, there is reason to be excited heading into the final week of the regular season (and beyond, if the Packers are able to win on Sunday night). That excitement is a result of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, who jolted some life into the defense against the Vikings on Saturday. Those two players helped harry Sam Bradford throughout much of the game, with Matthews coming up with one of the biggest plays of the game.

A Dom Capers defense is predicated on the pass rush leading to turnovers, and those plays have come in bunches lately. Here's hoping the same will take place against the Lions on Sunday.

Packers winning the battle for takeaways |
The Packers haven't turned the ball over on offense at all in the last three games, while forcing 12 takeaways. That's a formula for winning football, whether in the regular season or in the playoffs.

'Dominant' Clay Matthews could be key for Green Bay Packers - ESPN
Matthews had his best game of the season by far on Saturday, and his return to form had a cascade effect across the defense.

Matthews, Perry ease pass-rush concerns |
Meanwhile, Nick Perry was back on the field and he had a positive performance in his first game back from a hand injury. Even with a club, Perry's presence on the edge was a big help as well.

10 best players from Week 16's NFL action | PFF
Oh hi, Aaron Rodgers!

Zach Zenner is the Lions RB you've probably never heard of, and he's giving the Cowboys fits -
Theo Riddick has been the Lions' best running back this season, but with him out on Monday night, Zenner carried the load early on. However, after his two touchdowns and 62 yards early, the Lions gave up on the run and didn't give him the ball much after that. Still, keep an eye on Zenner in next week's game.

Dirk Koetter mum on Doug Martin's Week 17 status -
One of the better running backs on the league might not play for the Buccaneers next week, and a loss by Tampa Bay would help the NFC North loser still sneak into the postseason.