Former Carolina Panthers GM Bill Polian had this to say about Luke Kuechly recently on WFNZ the Drive, “The best middle linebacker in the NFL is Luke Kuechly, everbody else is playing for 2nd.” This is high praise from the long time GM but one that is shared by many talent evaluators across the NFL.
In a nationally televised game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the rest of the country saw why the likes of Bill Polian and Gil Brandt have been singing Kuechly’s praises. He had seven first half tackles, intercepted a pass, and seemed to be all over the field against the Ravens. It was a dominating performance, that sucked the life out of the defending champs. The second year player seemed to make game changing play after game changing play. He was especially fired up after being called for an unnecessary roughness foul where he batted the ball up that was intercepted by safety Charles Godfrey. He also had a hand in other turnovers caused by the defense, when he exploded through the A gap and forced a hurried Joe Flacco pass that was picked off and run back for a 71 yard touchdown by cornerback Drayton Florence. Near the goal line, Kuechly blew up running back Bernard Pierce causing the Ravens back to fumble the ball. Thomas Davis was able to corral the loose ball and slide into the endzone for a 2 yard touchdown.
All game long, Luke Kuechly imposed his will on the hapless Ravens offense. The Carolina Defense as a whole shined Thursday night. Rookie Defensive Tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short both had sacks and the defense was flying around the ball. There are still concerns in the secondary, but if the front seven continues to play like this, coverage problems will be masked. A quarterback can not complete a pass on their back and the defensive line of the Panthers will make sure of that.