When quarterback Tony Romo drove Dallas to the Carolina 3-yard line late in the first quarter, he had taken the Cowboys where the Panthers’ past two opponents never went. Neither the Titans nor the Redskins cracked Carolina’s red zone.
It’d be the only time Romo went there.
In their next five drives – which spanned the second and third quarters – the Cowboys picked up just two first downs. They gained 21 total yards, with six of those coming on the ground. That came a week after the Redskins rushed for 14 yards, the fewest by an opponent in Panthers’ history. After allowing a combined 45 rushing yards the past two weeks, the Panthers are temporarily second in the league at 88.7 per game, behind only Atlanta.
The defense was especially dominant in the second quarter when Romo had more interceptions (2) than passing yards (1). The picks came on back-to-back plays by linebacker Luke Kuechly, who took the first into the end zone, a place he hadn’t been since his junior season at Boston College.
“Oh man. I haven’t done that in a while,” Kuechly said. “(Cornerback) Bené (Benwikere) laid a good block on someone, and I was able to scurry in there.”
Kuechly became the first player with picks on back-to-back plays from scrimmage since 1997 and upped his career total to 10, most among all linebackers since 2012.
Afterward, quarterback Cam Newton gave perhaps the most colorful description of Kuechly we’ve heard since he’s been in Carolina.
“Luke’s a little firecracker. He has a dark side. I don’t want to give away who he is but a person that plays like is not just a nice guy. He has the smile, the charisma, the lawyer look, but he has like a demolition mentality,” Newton said.
“He’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But in my eyes, he’ll always be Captain America because he makes every play, he shows up and he prepares extremely well.”