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Numbers show how Panthers' defense will miss Luke Kuechly

From ESPN - October 13, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers linebacker David Mayo didnt know initially who he was replacing when the coaches screamed for him to get on the field late in the first quarter of Thursday nights loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

He didnt see the shot Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly took to the neck and head area. Since he plays inside and outside linebacker, Mayo could have been entering the game on a key third-down, goal-line situation at either position.

Mayo wasnt even fully aware Kuechly had entered the concussion protocol for the third time in as many seasons until after the game.

But Mayo is aware now, and hell be in the spotlight for the Panthers (4-2) moving forward if Kuechly misses multiple games as he has each of the past two seasons when suffering concussions.

As capable as Mayo might be, statistics show the defense isnt nearly as effective when the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is out.

The Panthers are 16-7 the past two seasons when Kuechly has started. They are 5-4 in the nine games he has missed, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Opponents are averaging 24.2 points when Kuechly is out, 21.4 when he plays. Their success on third-down percentage jumps to 40.6 from 46.7 and sack percentage drops from 7.0 to 5.2.

The numbers after Kuechly left Thursday night with just under six minutes remaining in the second quarter are just as telling.

The Panthers were leading 10-3 when the four-time Pro Bowl selection went to the sideline. They lost 28-23 and at one point trailed 28-16.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw three touchdown passes when Kuechly wasnt on the field and none when he was on it. The Panthers had three sacks when Kuechly was on the field and none after he left.

In fairness to Mayo, he didnt take a physical rep with the first-team defense in preparation for the Eagles. Hell get those if Kuechly is out for the next game, Oct. 22 at Chicago, and any ensuing games.

But the numbers suggest the defense still will suffer a drop-off.

"Hes a huge leader on this team, on this defense," Mayo said of Kuechly. A tremendous player, we all know. So its huge. Hes well loved and respected in the locker room. Nobody in this locker room wants to see that."

A.J. Klein started three games in 2015 when Kuechly was out with a concussion and the Panthers went 3-0.He started the final six games last season -- three with Kuechly in the concussion protocol and three as a precaution with the Panthers out of playoff contention -- after Kuechly suffered his second concussion in a prime-time game against New Orleans.

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