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Morning Tailgate: Gameplan vs. Luke Kuechly

Posted Jan 9, 2014

Luke Kuechly makes plays all over the field. The 49ers haven't forgotten.

All-Pro, Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly is going to be all over the field on Sunday when the 49ers visit the Panthers for the right to advance to the NFC title game.

It’s nothing new.

The second-year pro totaled 153 tackles on the year, including 11 tackles, 1 sack and one crucial pass breakup in Carolina’s Week 10 win over San Francisco.

Without the services of Vernon Davis, who was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion, the 49ers called a downfield shot to rookie Vance McDonald.

The second-round draft pick appeared to have a step on Kuechly’s coverage and was in position to make a reception on a deep seam route. The Panthers stud linebacker, however, had other plans.

PHOTOS: Carolina's Starting Lineups

Kuechly quickly closed on the ball and ripped McDonald’s left arm back, causing the rookie tight end to drop the reception. It could have been a game-changing play for the 49ers offense. Instead, Carolina had foiled another opportunity for San Francisco’s offense to produce a touchdown.

Kuechly is equally effective in the run game. Jim Harbaugh noted that it’s nearly impossible to neutralize a player of Kuechly’s caliber.

“He’s one of those players that, I don’t know that neutralize is a possibility,” the 49ers coach said on Wednesday. “He is a fantastic football player and we definitely got to get him blocked and do a great job of blocking him and sustaining. Really, fundamentals and technique are going to give us the best chance to do that with a player of his caliber. Again, we’ll shoot for A-plus-plus, but don’t know if that’s realistic in his case because he’s a fantastic, fantastic player.”

More 49ers headlines can be found in today’s Morning Tailgate, presented by State Farm.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle shared Frank Gore's glowing comments on what NaVorro Bowman looked like as a rookie.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News discussed Colin Kaepernick's role in the 49ers loss to Carolina.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looked at Harbaugh's comments on his coaching staff reportedly drawing interest for various coaching jobs.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com wrote about the 49ers adjusting their schedule for an early kick-off in Carolina.

Bill Williamson of ESPN.com provided an injury report, including Carlos Rogers sitting out of practice.

Janie McCauley of the Associated Press shared how the 49ers are a better team with Michael Crabtree healthy. 

Scott Kegley of 49ers.com interviewed Patrick Willis on the story behind his pregame speeches.

Andrew Pentis of 49ers.com interviewed Eric Davis for his unique take on the 49ers-Panthers rivalry.


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