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Cheese Curds, 1/5: Rashan Gary, Eric Stokes playing their best football at the perfect time

Gary continues to emerge as a top NFL pass-rusher while Stokes locked down Justin Jefferson on Sunday night.

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Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Although the Green Bay Packers’ defense has taken a handful of lumps in recent weeks, the group bounced back with a great performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. And even in the team’s recent struggles, it has been the run defense that was the problem, as the group has allowed fewer than 300 passing yards in each of the past five games and no more than 211 in any of the last four.

Two of the big reasons for the success of Green Bay’s pass defense are young, ascending players who have been thrust into starting roles this season. One, third-year pro Rashan Gary, is continuing the ascent that he started last season and is on the precipice of a first double-digit sack season.

The other is rookie cornerback Eric Stokes, whose impressive coverage all but erased the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson on Sunday night. Stokes is allowing a passer rating of just 71.0 and gives up only 5.3 yards per target with a completion rate below 50 percent. That’s remarkable for a rookie corner, and today’s curds find a great look at Sunday’s tape to examine how he’s doing it.

It sure looks like the Packers have a budding star at cornerback to pair with Jaire Alexander into the future and an exciting young pass-rusher to keep quarterbacks uncomfortable. That combination should serve this team well for years to come.

What You Might’ve Missed: No rookie wall | Packers.com
Sure, the Vikings' QB situation was a mess on Sunday, but Eric Stokes made sure that there was no place for Sean Mannion to throw to on his side of the field. Perhaps even more impressive than his speed is Stokes' quickness to react to double-moves and the Vikings receivers' good route-running skills.

Packers OLB Rashan Gary quietly producing an elite season as pass-rusher | Packers Wire
While Stokes is having an All-Rookie caliber season, Gary is Pro Bowl worthy even if he won't earn that honor. He has the second-most pressures among all NFL edge rushers and he's also top-three in two different measures of pass-rushing productivity. He just doesn't have the gaudy sack numbers of a T.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, or a Myles Garrett.

Dennis Kelly's emergence, David Bakhtiari's status and more Packers observations – The Athletic ($)
Gary has multiple QB pressures in ten straight games, one of only four players in the NFL who can say that. Check out that and a few more random notes here.

Ranking the NFL's 32 walk-off winners from most to least thrilling: 2021 set record for final-play victories | ESPN
This is a fun exercise, and two Packers wins show up in the top 11. One of those, the win in San Francisco, had the lowest win probability before the final drive of any game on this list.

Story Behind Shifting Packers-Lions Point Spread - Sports Illustrated
Congratulations if you got in on the Packers +2.5 on Sunday evening before Packers-Vikings kicked off. The line for this game has been all over the place and has finally settled at Packers -2.5 with the starters expected to play at least some of the game.

Jason Derulo gets into fight at Las Vegas club after man calls him Usher | Sky News
That's rude. You'd think that he'd be flattered to be confused with someone who actually has talent. (Just in case Jason Derulo reads APC, this is a joke.)