Tag Archives: Luke Kuechly

The Carolina Panthers incredible year now adds another chapter. A huge home game played in two kinds of weather…first in nice weather, then in a deluge. And Cam Newton finally showed everyone why he was the number one draft selection three years ago, leading his team on a 65-yard, no-timeout touchdown drive in the last-minute of the game. Final: Carolina Panthers 17, New Orleans Saints 13.

Carolina is back in the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Panthers (11-4) can claim the NFC South, a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game by beating the Falcons (4-10) next weekend in Atlanta. A loss by the Saints (10-5) against Tampa Bay (4-11) next week also would give the Panthers the division.

The Panthers won on a day when they were outgained by 143 yards, ran nearly half as many offensive plays (44) as the Saints (81) and were 0-for-9 on third downs.

In the biggest home game of the season…heck, the biggest GAME of the season…the Panthers made everyone uncomfortable. Well, not really, but for fans, they waited nearly 60 minutes to absolutely explode…The Panthers winning drive began with 55 seconds left…no timeouts remaining…on their own 35 yard line. Newton finally found the touch he was missing all game, and made the biggest play of the drive (and maybe of the season) when he found Ted Ginn Jr. on a deep in route for a 37-yard gain to the Saints’ 28. Coach Ron Rivera thought Ginn would be open if the line protected Newton, which it did.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen caught a critical pass from Cam Newton on the game-winning drive. (PHOTO: Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen caught a critical pass from Cam Newton on the game-winning drive. (PHOTO: Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)

A completion to tight end Greg Olsen moved the Panthers to the 14, setting up the winning play by Domenik Hixon, who was only in the game because Steve Smith had injured his knee in the first half.

With Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins blitzing, Hixon beat cornerback Corey White on a corner route and Newton found him. Hixon, who came to Charlotte from the Giants during the offseason, had caught three passes for 21 yards before Sunday.

Touchdown, Panthers! Dominik Hixon caught Cam Newton's game-winning pass in the end zone to cap a 5 play, 65-yard drive with :23 left in the contest. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)
Touchdown, Panthers! Domenik Hixon caught Cam Newton’s game-winning pass in the end zone to cap a 5 play, 65-yard drive with :23 left in the contest. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)

The Panthers won on a day when they were outgained by 143 yards, ran nearly half as many offensive plays (44) as the Saints (81) and were 0-for-9 on third downs.

Who else was uncomfortable? Every one of the 24 players tackled by linebacker Luke Kuechly. That’s right, 24 tackles by Keek, the most in a game since 1994, according to STATS, LLC. And he also had an interception…just so you know he’s a really good player. Probably the most instinctive linebacker in the league. And add to that linebacker Thomas Davis, who had another monster day.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) making one of his 24 tackles on the day. This one was on New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston. (PHOTO: Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) making one of his 24 tackles on the day. This one was on New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston. (PHOTO: Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)

And, just in case you were concerned that the special teams get no credit, second-year punter Brad Nortman punted eight times with an average of 50.8 yards and a net of 47. He hit a long of 60 and downed two punts inside the 20.

Not only did those two go inside the 20, they went inside the 5. His third-quarter punt was downed by Josh Thomas at the 2, and his early fourth-quarter punt from the Carolina 40 went 57 yards to the New Orleans 3.There can’t be many games in the NFL where the winning team gets zero third-down conversions and trailed in time of possession by more than 17 minutes.

But win they did, reversing the results they received two weeks ago in New Orleans. They did it by pressuring the Saints all day long. The defense pressured Saints quarterback Drew Brees, unlike two weeks ago, and it paid off. Offensively, Newton made enough plays to get the points necessary for the win. This despite a bad ankle and the loss of wide receiver Steve Smith, his favorite target, early in the game (knee) and despite playing on a waterlogged field that received over an inch of rain in the third quarter. They won because it was their time. The pieces are in place. Now they need to finish the regular-season off with a win, earn their first-round bye and get to host a home playoff game. Anything beyond that is an absolute bonus!

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

  • Panthers coach Ron Rivera: “It’s exciting. We’re in the playoffs and that’s one of the best things we’ve got going. But we still have a lot of business left at hand. We’re not going to be satisfied with just being in if we have an opportunity to get a good seed.”
  • Panthers punter Brad Nortman: “When the field gets so wet and damp it tends to catch better. It’s not going to take a strong bounce. Once the ball hits the ground it’s sort of up to God where it goes. I kicked it where I wanted to and it landed and it killed it. Luckily both of those died right there.”
  • Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, deflecting praise and giving everyone else credit for his incredible 24-tackle, one interception day: “It’s not me, it’s not Thomas (Davis). It’s the coaches, (defensive coordinator Sean) McDermott, (linebackers coach) Al (Holcomb), it’s the D-line that help us do that.”
  • Kuechly on what the defense did differently this week against the Saints compared to two weeks ago:“I think we got back to what we want to do – play sound, play smart, get after the quarterback and get up in Drew Brees’ face.”
  • Panthers quarterback Cam Newton: “We just kept fighting, kept pounding, kept getting after it. We knew we were one drive away, one play away. A couple guys at the end were saying, ‘Let’s not worry about what we’ve been playing for up to this point, let’s just play for this next play.’ ”
  • Panthers safety Mike Mitchell: “We’re a team and we all believe in one another, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
  • Panthers center Ryan Kalil: “We’ve had a few scars the last couple seasons, so there’s a lot to celebrate about and a lot to be proud of.”
  • Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: “The NFC South is up for grabs. We go take care of business down in Atlanta and we get the first-round bye and it’s closer to our goal – and that is to get to the Super Bowl.”
  • Saints quarterback Drew Brees on the difference two weeks make: “Same team. Obviously you kind of put together some wrinkles anytime you are playing a divisional opponent the second time, especially with only a two-week lapse. But I don’t think there were any big surprises out there today. Just two really good football teams going at it for 60 minutes and it took all 60.”
  • Saints tight end Jimmy Graham: “Sometimes it’s really hard to march the ball down the field when it’s raining like that in the third quarter. That limits you, especially when you want to come out and take some shots (downfield). They would cover very well and more than anything they had a good pass rush. When a pass rush is like that, you have to chip and really focus and sometimes try to get the ball out quick.”
  • Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis: It hurts, but like I said before, three of the last four Super Bowl champions took the hard route. So if that’s what we’ve got to do to win it, that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Carolina Panthers special teams disappoint against Houston

The Carolina Panthers preseason opener was a lackluster affair…a meaningless 26-13 loss to the Houston Texans Saturday night in Charlotte. One of the Panthers’ weak spots last year continues into this season – special teams.

The Panthers tried to fix their special teams over the offseason by hiring an assistant special teams coach, signing several free agents with strong special teams resumes and selecting a punter and a kick-returner with two of their seven draft picks. But, at least in this game, it didn’t seem to matter.

Houston’s Trindon Holliday returned this kickoff 90 yards in the first quarter in the Texans’ 26-13 win against the Carolina Panthers Saturday night in the preseason opener for both teams.

After tying the game at 3 each in the first quarter, the Panthers allowed Houston’s Trindon Holliday to return the subsequent kick 90 yards. Coach Ron Rivera was not happy about that, and neither were the special teams players nor the fans in Bank of America Stadium. Justin Medlock‘s short kick (to the 10 yard line) gave Holliday a running start – something you do not need to do when facing one of the league’s fastest players.

“Any time a kick returner can catch that ball going forward like he did, it doesn’t give your coverage an opportunity to get all the way down in position,” Rivera said. “Then we’ve got to get off blocks.”

That didn’t happen. New Panthers free safety Haruki Nakamura, one of the special teams pickups, said the coverage team was to blame. “We brought in guys specifically to fix those problems and none of us are happy about it. It had nothing to do with the call. It had nothing to do with the kick. The coach makes the call, we kick it and you’re supposed to run down and tackle him. That’s on us as players, and we didn’t do it.”

Medlock, the former CFL player is competing with incumbent placekicking veteran Olindo Mare. While he has looked great in camp, remember he was cut after his first NFL game when he went 1-of-2 in field goals. I hope he gets more chances because he has a tremendous leg. His kickoff to the 10 yard line is not good enough in the NFL, however. In fact, Rivera said that play was the biggest disappointment of the night. Mare sent both of his kickoffs into the end zone, one for a touchback. Mare made a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter and Medlock made a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter with plenty of distance to spare. Rivera said neither kicker gained an advantage.

Brad Nortman, the rookie punter (sixth round pick from Wisconsin) hit a 57-yard field goal from the end zone and it had good hang time, forcing a fair catch.

In the second half, fourth-round pick Joe Adams from Arkansas fielded a punt on the left sideline, reversed field and ran up the right sideline for a 34-yard return. This was great to see, as Adams is not only fast, but he is quick, too. Quick gives you a chance to go fast in the league.

The game was scripted, and Rivera said his starters would play between 12 and 15 plays. Newton was in for 13 plays, and set up Mare’s field goal, before giving way to veteran Derek Anderson.

First round pick Luke Kuechly started at weakside linebacker and made four tackles and forced a fumble in his NFL debut. “Luke came out and showed what he’s capable of doing in terms of football plays,” Rivera stated. “He came off the sideline and said, ‘Man, that was fast.’ Once he got past that first series you saw what he was capable of.”

He was named the starter Friday after the team listed Thomas Davis (strained calf) and linebacker Jon Beason (hamstring) as out for Saturday’s game.

“For me it was fast. That’s the biggest thing I remember,” Kuechly said. “The first play of the game I lined up on the wrong side of the ball. It was a learning experience. The speed of the game is a lot faster, even in practice. Practice moves as a certain pace but even the tempo of the previous play is a lot quicker.”

Rookie linebacker (and first-round draft pick) Luke Kuechly strips Houston’s Arian Foster of the ball after Foster had run for a first down.

Kuechly’s best play came when Houston running back (and former Pro Bowler) Arian Foster had run for a first down, but Kuechly ball stripped out of his hand and cornerback Sherrod Martin recovered it at midfield. Kuechly’s four tackles topped the defensive list.

Jonathan Stewart, who signed a new five-year contract extension just before kickoff, did not get much work, but he did make a 13-yard reception for a first down.

The offense didn’t do much with short field, and Rivera was disappointed in the second- and third-teamers in particular. He witnessed the offensive line giving up sight sacks, including third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen going down five times and also losing a fumble.

Third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen was sacked five times and fumbled once in a tough 2012 debut for the Carolina Panthers Saturday night.

At the end of the game, the locker room was quiet…not much to celebrate…a point Rivera made to his players. “It was simple. He wasn’t happy. And it was evident why. The effort out there wasn’t good enough. Every time we come out and play in front of our fans we have a point to prove,” Newton said. “At points in the game, myself included, it was lethargic and we could have put more effort into it. We never like to have those types of (post-game) meetings.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked once, but led the team to a field goal in his 13 plays Saturday night against Houston.

To me, you never know what kind of team you have until you play a game. The Panthers have shown good tempo and effort at camp, other than one time this week when Rivera had to stop practice to get the team’s attention. Going up against a good Houston team shows there is a lot of work to do this week, and over the course of the preseason if the Panthers are going to give New Orleans and Atlanta a run this season.

The first game is just kind of an exercise in getting the cobwebs out. Looks like there is a lot of cleaning left to do.

 

 

Carolina Panthers Open Training Camp

Spartanburg, SC – The Carolina Panthers officially opened training camp Saturday evening in front of 12,000 friends, family and fans at Gibbs Stadium on the Wofford College campus. On what was dubbed Back to Football night, complete with rock bands, the Top Caps cheerleaders, Sir Purr and plenty of concessions, everyone seemed pleased with the practice.

QB Cam Newton (red jersey) throws to TE Greg Olsen as the Carolina Panthers opened training camp

Last season’s Rookie of the Year, QB Cam Newton pleased the crowd, passing and running easily. Just walking onto the field brought a tremendous roar from the fans. No doubt, he is the face of this team and, with the success he had last year as a rookie, the fans are 100% sold on him. But he really made their night by throwing a ball into the stands late in practice.

Third-string QB Jimmy Clausen threw some very nice deep balls and Newton’s back-up, Derek Anderson ran the offense like a veteran.

Rookie LB Luke Kuechly (59) talking to the defense on the sideline

Rookie linebacker (first round pick) Luke Kuechly made an interception…and showed a nose for the ball. Second round pick Amini Silatolu takes up a lot of space on the offensive line, something that can only make Newton very happy.

Rookie punter Brad Nortman

I spent time with the kickers, since this is one area the Panthers really need to improve upon. Rookie punter Brad Nortman boomed some punts and showed why he had a reputation as a terrific directional kicker. Working on the back practice fields before heading to the stadium, Nortman worked against the wind, kicking to spots. The ball rockets off his foot and gains altitude very quickly.

Veteran placekicker Olindo Mare

The placekicking part of the game could be improved…and veteran Olindo Mare knows this.  Justin Medlock was brought into camp to give Mare competition and with Medlock’s reputation gained working in the Canadian Football League, this will be one to watch.

It didn’t help when Mare missed a 43 yard field goal, hitting the right upright. The fans booed. Brutal…it’s the first practice…but they remember last season’s crucial misses.

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was very happy to sign for the fans

It was great spending time with Jerry Richardson, the Panthers owner. He is beloved by the fans who begged him to sign a huge copy of the Super Bowl Promise ad (as I will call it) run in the Charlotte Observer last week. The ad, paid for and written by center Ryan Kalil, has everyone talking. “I Believe” is what people are calling it…and Richardson was more than happy to sign it.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson talks to WR Steve Smith as Smith stretches

WR Steve Smith, sporting a beard, was in good spirits. He was even playful when catching a ball over the middle in front of Captain Munnerlyn, then getting run out-of-bounds by Munnerlyn and giving the Captain a shot at the end…which was returned.  All in good fun.

TE Greg Olsen should be the main target now that Jeremy Shockey is no longer a Panther. And he will be a great target for balls thrown his way. He showed nice, soft hands.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was good seeing LB Jon Beason back in action. Kuechly looked very good and seemed to be enjoying himself. The defense made four interceptions during practice and Kuechly, showing versatility, even ran a few plays on the punt team.

The coaches felt it was a great atmosphere and were very pleased with Olsen’s showing, as well as the running backs ability to slip past the defensive line. I was standing next to Coach Ron Rivera for much of the practice and he and I were just shaking our heads over the defensive line being offside, just barely, on many plays. Trying to get an edge on Cam, I guess. He said the young guys need to develop quickly and step up.

Nortman told me he was glad the first practice was behind him and felt it was a good one (it was). He is looking forward to continuing to work hard, taking one step at a time, to improve upon his excellent collegiate numbers he amassed while at Wisconsin.

CELEBRITIES IN ATTENDANCE: I was able to catch up with Stephen and Seth Curry, the basketball players who grew up in the Charlotte area. Stephen and I talked about the NBA and the San Francisco Bay area experience, trading restaurant tips. He said the Warriors are getting a new arena and they should move into it for the 2017-18 season…but the NBA being what it is, he is not getting too excited about playing there. “You never know what will happen…the NBA moves quickly and players move around so much.” Seth will be a senior at Duke this coming season, and is looking forward to the year.

Panthers Sign Kuechly; Open Minicamp Today

Charlotte – On May 10, the Carolina Panthers reached an agreement with first-round draft choice Luke Kuechly on the eve of the team’s rookie minicamp.

Kuechly, the former Boston College linebacker who is the NCAA’s all-time leading tackler, agreed to a four-year contract worth $12.58 million, all of it guaranteed, according to a league source.  He was the ninth overall pick in last month’s draft, and at this time is the highest draft pick to agree to terms.

Image

A 6-3, 242-pound native of Cincinnati, Kuechly (above) averaged 15.9 tackles last season and 14.0 tackles over his three-year career, both NCAA records.

The Panthers will have 58 players in town this weekend for the rookie minicamp.  The camp includes their 7 draft picks, 12 undrafted free agents, 7 players under contract with less than one year of NFL service time, and 32 players trying out.

Here are the players who will be in Charlotte this weekend.

Number/Name/Pos./Ht./Wt./DOB/Exp/College

15 Adams, Joe WR 5-11 179 11/22/89 22 R Arkansas

97 Ah You, C.J. * DE 6-4 265 07/07/82 29 4 Oklahoma

90 Alexander, Frank DE 6-4 271 12/17/89 22 R Oklahoma

54 Andrews, Will * LB 6-0 228 R Montana State – Northern

53 Asiedu, Mike * LB 6-3 221 05/25/90 21 R Wesley College

10 Avila, Michael * WR 5-9 170 11/03/88 23 R San Jose State

42 Barnes, Anthony * CB 6-1 194 01/29/88 24 1 Northfolk State

16 Bell, Dalton * QB 6-2 207 03/09/83 29 1 West Texas A&M

5 Bersin, Brenton WR 6-3 210 05/09/90 22 R Wofford

72 Blackwell, Will G 6-3 310 01/24/89 23 R Louisiana State

11 Brown, Jarrett * QB 6-3 225 09/21/87 24 1 West Virginia

60 Browning, Bryant G 6-4 313 06/26/88 23 1 Ohio State

62 Byers, Jeff C 6-4 301 09/07/85 26 1 Southern Cal

26 Campbell, D.J. S 6-0 200 07/24/89 22 R Cal

66 Chandler, Nate DT 6-4 294 06/01/89 22 R UCLA

98 Charles, Kenneth * DE 6-3 266 02/23/89 23 1 Stephen F. Austin

91 Cohen, Landon * DT 6-3 300 08/03/86 25 4 Ohio

75 Cooper, Jon * C 6-2 291 10/01/86 25 3 Oklahoma

32 Corto, Jon * S 6-1 212 09/03/84 27 5 Sacred Heart

31 Davis, James * RB 5-11 218 01/01/86 26 3 Clemson

56 Denson, Brandon * LB 5-11 230 07/22/87 24 1 Michigan State

79 Edge, Terence * G 6-2 295 02/01/89 23 R UAB

14 Edison, Dominique * WR 6-2 201 07/16/86 25 2 Stephen F. Austin

9 Green, Jared WR 6-1 188 04/01/89 23 R Southern

21 Harris, Dominique * S 6-2 213 04/14/87 25 1 Temple

63 Jones, Aaron * T 6-4 360 12/07/87 24 1 Holy Cross

29 Jorden, Ben * FB 6-2 250 03/15/88 24 R Appalachian State

28 Kay, Ricky * FB 6-3 243 05/13/89 23 1 Central Florida

17 Kemp, Wes WR 6-3 223 09/18/89 22 R Missouri

59 Kuechly, Luke LB 6-2 242 08/20/91 20 R Boston College

49 Lloyd, Tarren TE 6-6 256 01/25/89 23 R Utah State

18 Manno, Chris WR 6-1 196 08/28/85 26 1 Hofstra

78 Maxwell, William * G 6-1 294 12/31/88 23 R Georgia Southern

7 Medlock, Justin K 5-11 201 10/23/83 28 1 UCLA

39 McCarty, Princeton RB 5-7 197 07/03/88 23 R Idaho

74 Murray, Pat * C 6-3 316 10/31/86 25 1 Truman State

37 Nelson, Jonathan S 5-11 195 05/06/88 24 1 Oklahoma

57 Nixon, David * LB 6-3 225 03/16/85 27 4 Brigham Young

24 Norman, Josh CB 6-0 190 12/15/87 24 R Coastal Carolina

8 Nortman, Brad P 6-2 209 09/12/89 22 R Wisconsin

44 Oordt, Schuylar * TE 6-7 246 05/26/87 24 1 Northern Iowa

45 Pellum, Romeo * CB 5-10 179 02/27/89 23 1 Hampton

33 Poole, Tauren RB 5-10 209 10/19/89 22 R Tennessee

93 Powell, Carlton * DT 6-3 312 08/14/85 26 1 Virginia Tech

20 Powers, Preston * LS 6-1 258 09/26/87 24 1 Mississippi

73 Ramsey, Andre * T 6-5 322 07/24/87 24 1 Ball State

92 Reed, Nick * DE 6-1 248 09/01/87 24 2 Oregon

70 Reynolds, Matt T 6-4 305 05/31/86 25 R Brigham Young

38 Rowells, Lyndon RB 5-9 207 03/08/88 24 R Humboldt State

61 Silatolu, Amini G 6-3 311 09/16/88 23 R Midwestern State

85 Smith, Greg TE 6-4 245 01/13/88 24 1 Texas

36 Sullivan, Reggie CB 6-2 210 02/24/85 27 1 Johnson C. Smith

34 Torrence, Devon * CB 6-0 190 05/08/89 23 1 Ohio State

72 Van Bergen, Ryan DE 6-4 290 03/18/89 23 R Michigan

4 Wallace, Rico WR 6-3 210 05/25/90 21 R Shenandoah

55 Webb, Nick * LB 6-4 245 10/06/86 25 R Weber State

65 Wells, Justin * G 6-6 318 01/06/88 24 1 St. Augustine

40 Williams, Jonathan * RB 6-0 204 09/21/88 23 1 East Carolina

* denotes player tryout player