Luke Kuechly on Panthers' 0-2 Start: 'The Sky Is Not Falling'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2019

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) runs a play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Mike McCarn/Associated Press

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly isn't panicking following his team's 0-2 start.  

"The sky is not falling," he said after Thursday's 20-14 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per David Newton of ESPN.

Newton pointed out Kuechly was a featured member of the 2013 Panthers, who started 0-2 and finished the year at 12-4. A turnaround would be nothing new for the six-time Pro Bowler.

Panthers fans looking for a silver lining outside of Kuechly's optimism can take solace knowing the team could very well be 2-0. Carolina lost by a mere three points in Week 1 on the road against the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams and was two yards away from potentially defeating Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Christian McCaffrey had an opportunity to put the Panthers ahead in the final two minutes when he took a direct snap on 4th-and-1 from Tampa Bay's 2-yard line, but Vernon Hargreaves III forced him out of bounds short of the marker.

The biggest reason for concern, though, may be Cam Newton.

The 30-year-old quarterback who underwent shoulder surgery this offseason struggled to hit his receivers in stride throughout the loss and finished 25-of-51 for 333 yards, zero touchdowns and zero picks with one fumble lost. Some of his throws sailed, while others short-hopped his targets in the open field.

He also has just five carries for minus-two yards in the first two games, underscoring that the Panthers may deliberately be preventing him from taking hits after his offseason surgery. A quarterback sneak on the final 4th-and-1 may have done the trick and helped the Panthers move to 1-1 instead of 0-2, but Newton didn't even line up under center.

Kuechly stressed there is still plenty of time remaining in the season, and Carolina will have a chance to turn things around in the immediate future.

The Panthers play the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buccaneers prior to a Week 7 bye. Even though the Texans went 11-5, those four teams were a combined 24-40 last year.

If Carolina can bounce back against some of the winnable opponents to come, it will find itself right back in the NFC South race.

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