Carolina is ranked fifth defending the run and ninth in scoring defense, but look what happened after Kuechly went out in Thursday night’s home loss to the Eagles: The Panthers, leading 10-3 at the time, were outscored, 25-13. LeGarrette Blount hammered Philly’s longest run of the night – and Carolina’s third-longest rush allowed this season – up the gut where Kuechly normally resides shortly after the linebacker’s departure.
Make no mistake: Fellow linebackers Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson, and a defensive line with Kawann Short and Julius Peppers, remains not only capable but plenty formidable. The Panthers’ defensive turnaround in the second half of 2016 came without Kuechly. They’ve been here before.
But Davis said this week the Bears have as good of a run game as he’s seen from a team with a rookie quarterback, high praise from a guy whose 2011 Panthers also ranked third in the NFL on the ground and first in rushing yards per play led by then-rookie Cam Newton.
Davis was equally impressed with Trubisky, saying, “He kind of has that Aaron Rodgers effect,” citing the rookie’s pinpoint accuracy on the move.