Twenty-four tackles gets Kuechly an award

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly on Tuesday was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

The reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year had a team-record 24 tackles in Sunday's 17-13 victory over New Orleans. He also won the award after helping Carolina to a 10-9 victory over San Francisco on Nov. 10.

The Panthers (11-4), with the league's second-ranked defense, have won the award four times this season. Defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Thomas Davis won the other two.

"The thing I like is we won (the game)," Kuechly said, downplaying his role in Sunday's Week 16 game.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott on Monday called Kuechly the best defensive player in the NFL. Kuechly credited McDermott with "putting us in position to make the plays."

The victory guaranteed Carolina a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. A win on Sunday at Atlanta would wrap up the NFC South title and a first-round bye.

"This game is huge," Kuechly said. "We have to get the win this week to make last week mean anything."