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Kenny Clark's late-season push helping power Packers' D-Train

Fourth-year defensive tackle heating up with 3½ sacks in last two games

Packers DL Kenny Clark sacks Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky in the first quarter of Green Bay's 21-13 victory at Lambeau Field.
Packers DL Kenny Clark sacks Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky in the first quarter of Green Bay's 21-13 victory at Lambeau Field.

GREEN BAY – For a kid who grew up in California and attended college near home at UCLA, Kenny Clark has had no problem whatsoever getting acclimated to December football in Green Bay.

With temperatures hovering in the teens all afternoon, the Packers' 24-year-old defensive lineman continued to mount another late-season surge with eight tackles (three for a loss) and two sacks in Sunday's 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

That gives Clark 3½ sacks over the past two games and five total on the season, trailing only Preston (11½) and Za'Darius (10) Smith for the team lead. Coincidentally, eight of Clark's 15½ career sacks have come in the month of December.

When asked about his penchant for playing his best down the stretch, the fourth-year veteran said after Sunday's game he was unaware of those numbers. However, Clark won't deny feeling in a groove, especially after weathering a 10-week midseason stretch without a sack.

 "It feels good. I've been pressuring the quarterback all year," he said. "For them to finally start coming and coming how they are in bunches, that's great. Hopefully, I can keep this train going."

After recording a half sack in the opener against Chicago and another in Week 2 against Minnesota, Clark had to remain patient prior to his 1½-sack day last Sunday against Washington.

Even when the sacks weren't piling up, Clark didn't over-pursue to make them happen. An important cog in the middle of the defense, he still entered Sunday's game with the fourth-most pressures among qualifying defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

After the stars aligned last week against Washington, Clark picked up right where he left off when he dropped Bears running back Tarik Cohen for a 3-yard loss on the second offensive play of the game. On the next series, he sacked Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for a 7-yard loss to force the first of back-to-back three-and-outs.

"Oh, he's killing it," defensive lineman Dean Lowry said of Clark. "I think you can see you can't block him one-on-one. Every time he has a one-on-one, he wins. Just to see his start in the first quarter that got us going on defense, that was huge."

Clark's presence up front set the tone for a strong first half in which Green Bay's defense held the Bears to only a field goal and caused them to punt on their first three offensive possessions.

With the Packers leading 14-3 after an Aaron Jones' 21-yard touchdown run to start the second half, Clark helped give the ball right back to Green Bay's offense with another sack of Trubisky. Despite the defense playing almost exclusively in its sub-packages, Clark and the front still held Chicago running backs David Montgomery and Cohen to only 67 yards on 22 carries.

After the Packers pulled ahead 21-3 midway through the third quarter, Trubisky and the Bears began to mount a rally through the air. While Trubisky finished with 348 passing yards, the Packers closed the door on their division rivals thanks to a Lowry interception with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter off a pressure from linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Green Bay also defused a series of laterals on the final play of the game to preserve the victory.

Lambeau Field hosted a Week 15 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, the 200th in the rivalry.

It was the third consecutive game the Packers' defense limited opponents to 15 or fewer points. With Lowry's takeaway and cornerback Jaire Alexander's pick before halftime, Green Bay already has more than doubled the seven interceptions the defense recorded a year ago.

"Defense wins championships, man," Clark said. "You got to play great defense to compete with the great teams in the league. We've just got to keep getting better every week, be critical of ourselves during the week and just keep improving and we'll see how we stack up against the good teams."

Clark still has plenty to play for, both individually and as a team. The Packers can clinch their first NFC North title in three years with a win next week in Minnesota. With two games left in the regular season, Clark still has a shot at resetting his career high for sacks (six).

"I got 1½ last week, two today. I should have had three, but, hopefully next week it's three," Clark said. "I'm trying to stack 'em up. Trying to do whatever it takes to help the team win."

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