Panthers cornerback Josh Norman has gotten plenty of praise for shutting down Dallas receiver Dez Bryant. But Norman had a little help. Specifically, Norman got help at one key moment during which Bryant was wide open down the field.
The help came in the form of linebacker Luke Kuechly, who supplemented his two-pick performance by somehow breaking up what would have ben an easy touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Bryant.
“We were playing in [zone] coverage and the play got extended and I saw him kind of turn it up so I just chased him down there and I figured if no one’s on him, I better cover him,” Kuechly said on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “So I just tried to do my best, tried to run down there with him and luckily I was able to get close enough to him where I could bump him out of bounds.”
The film from the game demonstrates what a great play Kuechly made. Lined up to the right of the center, Kuechly picked up Bryant running a drag route underneath the zone coverage. Then, as Romo was flushed out of the pocket toward Kuechly’s left, Bryant sprinted up the field.
Kuechly hesitated for an instant with the question of whether to contain Romo or cover Bryant. Kuechly then took off, taking an angle and closing the gap quickly on Bryant, hitting him just as he was catching the ball inside the five and preventing a touchdown that would have cut Carolina’s 10-0 lead to 10-7.
With plenty of games still to play, it will be hard for any other NFC defender to keep Kuechly from getting “player of the week” honors. And while the honor likely will go to Kuechly based on his pair of interceptions, his handling of Bryant at a key moment in the game should receive just as much attention.
For more from Kuechly’s visit to PFT Live, visit NBCSportsRadio.com or download the PFT Live “best of” podcast at iTunes.