A vote for Luke Kuechly as NFL MVP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I keep reading how Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a shoo-in for NFL Player of the Year because he has thrown a record 51 touchdown passes.

If not him, then New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who also has thrown a lot of touchdown passes.

If not him, then Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who runs and throws for a lot of touchdowns.

Or New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who throws a lot of touchdowns.

Here's my MVP quarterback pick: Luke Kuechly, quarterback of one of the league's best defenses.

He stops a lot of touchdowns.

What the Carolina Panthers' middle linebacker did Sunday against New Orleans was nothing short of spectacular. Officially, Kuechly had 24 tackles, the most in the league in six years and tied for the most since tackle stats first were recorded in 1994.

The Carolina coaching staff credited the former Boston College star with two more tackles during Monday's game review.

That's 26. Panthers coach Ron Rivera used to take three or four games to get that many when he played linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

That's like a six-touchdown game for Manning.

And did I mention that Kuechly had an interception, as well? That made him the first player since Derrick Brooks in 2001 to have 20-plus tackles and an interception.

That's like a seven-touchdown game for Manning.

Kuechly isn't a one-game wonder, either. He collects tackles like Manning does passing yards. His tally of 165 with a regular-season game remaining at Atlanta is one more than he had last season when he led the league as a rookie.

It wouldn't surprise me to see him one day break the single-season league record of 195 set by Detroit linebacker Chris Spielman in 1994.

Kuechly deserves MVP consideration because he's a big reason the Panthers are 11-4, but defensive players seldom, if ever, get that level of respect. There hasn't been a defensive player named MVP since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

Maybe that should change.

Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was asked Monday whether Kuechly was the best linebacker in the NFL.

"Yes," he said.

He was asked whether Kuechly was the best defensive player.

"Yes," he said.

He wasn't asked whether Kuechly should be the league MVP, so I'll say it for him.