Luke Kuechly played like a man possessed Sunday.
The second-year middle linebacker finished with 24 tackles and an interception in the Carolina Panthers' dramatic 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints. It was the most tackles in an NFL game since New York Jets linebacker David Harris finished with the same number back in 2007.
If Kuechly ends up as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year (and he's a very strong contender), you can point to Week 16 as the award clincher. With the stakes at their highest, Kuechly took over.
Kuechly's interception of Drew Brees was especially impressive. The linebacker read the play perfectly and jumped in front of tight end Jimmy Graham to shut down a Saints drive that was nearing midfield. Kuechly did it in a Charlotte downpour as well, giving the play a cinematic feel.
"I didn't really see (Brees); I just saw the ball come out," Kuechly said. "That goes back to the guys up front pushing the pocket, getting in his face, causing some problems in the middle from him."
Kuechly was modest about his huge afternoon, but this was an achievement that shouldn't be played down. The Panthers have arguably the best defense in football. Kuechly is at the heart of it.