7 questions with Carolina Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly

FLOWERY BRANCH — Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly talked about his unit and facing the Atlanta Falcons during his conference call with the Atlanta media on Wednesday:

Here are some of the highlights:

Q: What’s has been working for the Panthers during this three-game winning streak?

A: I think the biggest thing for us is that we've been able to do a good job of playing as a unit. At the beginning of the season we had a bunch of new guys trying to figure each other out. But these last few games I think our communication (is working). We understand where each other is going to be. The biggest thing has probably been our pass rush. The guys up front have really come alive. Charles (Johnson) and the guys inside have done a great job the last few weeks of really pushing the pocket and getting after the passer a little bit.

Q: Has this rivalry heated up the last couple of years?

A: It's a division game. You play each other two times a year and a rivalry really develops.... We have a lot of guys on our team from Atlanta and from Georgia. So it's a natural rivalry for them. Once you play a team so many times and they understand you and you understand them, it just turns into a natural rivalry. I really enjoy playing in it.

Q: What are your thoughts about everything being on the line in one game?

A: It's awesome. The thing that makes it so fun is that it's not just for us, it's for them, too. It's both teams, win or go home. It's kind of if the playoffs start for both of us this week. …We know their mentality is going to be the same as ours. We're going to give it everything we (have) in order to get a win and extend the season.

Q: Does it seem strange to be 6-8-1 and one game from the playoffs?

A: I guess it is when you think about the beginning of the season and you were thinking about what it was going to take to make the playoffs, I don' t think you envisioned 6-8-1 with one game to go and an opportunity to make the playoffs. But we have that opportunity right now and we're not going to complain about it.

Q: What do you see from the Falcons’ offensive line?

A: They had some injuries early on in the season to some guys they were anticipating playing a lot. When that happens and you have to sub some guys in, it takes a little time for those guys to (blend) together. When you watch tape of the past few weeks, they are passing stuff off well. They understand each other. They are moving very well. It looks like a different offensive line from the first time that we played.

Q: The last game got a little chippy. What’s the difference between standing your ground or doing dumb stuff? How important will that be this week?

A: I think both teams understand what's on the line. So, I don't think any stuff that's going to hurt a team is going to happen. But It will be chippy because it's a division game. Both teams play hard. Both teams know what's at stake. I'm sure there will be a little back-and-forth, but we hope it doesn't get to the point where it's going to hurt us.

Q: But you all had the big bull fight in New Orleans with the Saints?

A: Yeah, you never know. I'm sure there will be some stuff going back-and-forth. But that's what you love about these games. Both teams have the ultimate desire to win. Guys are not going to back down from anything and that is what makes this game fun.

FALCONS FAN MAILBAG: We take your questions from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

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