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Merrimack Valley

November 17, 2013

Panthers' Luke Kuechly vs. Patriots' Rob Gronkowski matchup could be crucial for both teams


Rivera said coverage responsibilities on Gronkowski would be shared by several players, and Mitchell hinted the linebackers would get safety help.

But the prospect of watching Kuechly, last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, go head-to-head with Gronkowski seems to be the most appealing. Former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, a FOX and NFL Network analyst, tweeted this week that he was looking forward to the Gronk-Kuechly matchup.

Kuechly, who led the league in tackles in 2012, said before this season he wanted to improve his coverage skills. His three interceptions – tied with Mitchell for the team lead – would seem to indicate he’s on his way.

Belichick called Kuechly an instinctive player who’s around the ball a lot.

“A very good pass defender,” Belichick said. “He’s got good speed, and you see him running with guys in the deep part of the field in their Tampa-2 coverage. He’s got good pursuit to the sideline, makes a lot of plays outside the numbers. Again, a very instinctive guy that can read the quarterback well.”

Mitchell was asked how Kuechly would fare against Gronkowski.

“Kuech can hang with anyone in this league,” Mitchell said. “Have you not seen Luke? He’s the best, man.”

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