Kuechly, Panthers find ways to win, beat Colts 29-26 in OT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Luke Kuechly is the first to admit the Carolina Panthers don't always win pretty.
Seems the team's gritty star middle linebacker wouldn't have it any other way.
''That's not what we do,'' Kuechly said after Carolina's 29-26 overtime win Monday night over the Indianapolis Colts. ''We just find a way to win at the end of the game, and that's what makes it fun here is we keep it exciting. You never know what to expect.''
Kuechly had a chance to put away the Colts at the end of regulation, but he dropped Andrew Luck's pass in the end zone.
The 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year allowed a wet football to slide through his hands with 2 seconds left in regulation. Adam Vinatieri kicked a field goal from there to send it overtime.
Kuechly would make the most of another opportunity, ultimately intercepting Luck on a tipped pass by teammate Roman Harper to set up Graham Gano's game-winning 52-yard field goal with 5:22 left in overtime.
''Roman made a great play and it really just popped right to me and all I had to do was catch it, and that time I was like, `All right, just catch it this time,''' Kuechly said. ''It was a great play by those guys up front; I was just in the right spot.''
The Panthers forced four turnovers.
The win moved the Panthers to 7-0 for the first time in franchise history and extended the team's regular season win streak to 11 games. It also left the Panthers as the only unbeaten team in the NFC with a big home game looming this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
''We just know that you've got to step up in big moments and we were able to do that today,'' Kuechly said.
Things we learned from Monday night's Colts-Panthers game:
LUCK'S RIBS A MYSTERY:
Andrew Luck didn't discuss a report that he's been suffering from a rib injury in addition to a problematic shoulder.
''I'm not going to talk about that right now,'' Luck said after throwing for 231 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Luck rallied the Colts from 17 points down in the fourth quarter, but his third interception proved decisive.
Luck has thrown a league-high 12 interceptions amid speculation that injuries are hurting his play.
''It's my problem, and it's hurting the team,'' Luck said of his interceptions. ''I've got to fix it. It's tough to win like that, and I'm disappointed in myself. Mentally, I feel all right. It's tough to overcome in the game.''
LEAN ON FLEENER: Luck leaned hard on Coby Fleener, targeting the tight end 11 times. He came through with seven receptions for 43 yards and a score. If Fleener can give the Colts more production it might open up some things for the team's other receivers.
Andre Johnson had a productive game - his second of the season - catching four passes for 81 yards and a score.
PANTHERS ON THE RUN: The Panthers recorded 140 yards rushing, marking the 18th consecutive 100-yard rushing game. The 18-game stretch is currently the second-longest active streak in the NFL, behind Seattle's streak of 19.
Carolina ranks first in the league in rushing.
The Panthers did have two fumbles - one by Jonathan Stewart and another by Cam Newton - but the wet field conditions played a role in those turnovers.
OFFENSIVE LINE WOES: The bad news for Carolina is their offensive line is getting banged up. Center Ryan Kalil sat out with an ankle injury and Andrew Norwell left with a leg injury in the first quarter and did not return.
FILING A PROTEST: Sometimes you never know what you're going to get in a Monday night game - and that doesn't necessarily mean on the field.
Two activists grabbed some attention after rappelling on ropes from the upper deck holding a protest sign for most of the second half as fans watched in awe. They finally descended. Altogether four people were arrested by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police. The biggest concern for the Panthers might be how rappelling ropes got through stadium security.
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