49ers vs Panthers Key Match-up: Gore vs. Kuechly

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As we anxiously await the Panthers first playoff game in five seasons, the players are doling out the traditional apropos in pregame interviews. Here's a comparison of quotes between two players in a key match-up, Panthers LB Luke Kuechly vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore.

In their week 10 match-up Gore had a pretty good day, running for 82 yards on 16 carries (5.1 ypc). Most of it came in the first half though (62) and he couldn't get it done in the red zone as the 49ers had to settle for 3 FGs. Kuechly had 11 tackles on the day and was a big reason the 49ers were kept out of the end zone. Gore says he will be ready for Kuechly on Sunday:

Inside the 49ers | Gore on Kuechly: "Fast. Big. Fast." | The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA

Q: "What do you see from Luke Kuechly?" GORE: "He’s a beast. I compare him to our guys. He’s a top guy at his position, too. I respect him. He’s fast, he can read and get to the ball — he’s fast. Fast. Big. Fast. He’s got it all. I’ll be ready for him on Sunday."

That's high praise from a nine year vet with seven 1,000 yard rushing seasons including 9 TDs. Gore didn't catch the ball as much as he has in seasons past but he did have two catches for 21 yards in the week 10 game. I expect Gore to exceed that count this week as the 49ers try to slow down the Panther pass rush. In those situations Kuechly's speed and ability to sniff out the play action screen will be a key to the Panthers duplicating their week 10 performance.

Kuechly on the other seems to know Gore pretty well too:

Luke Kuechly looks to slow down 49ers offense - San Jose Mercury News
Frank Gore's veteran legs also concern the Panthers. "He's patient runner and he hits his spots," Kuechly said. "That's what makes him tricky. He's going to wait for his time, find a crease and pop out the other side." This is the first time the Panthers will face 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree, who was still recovering from Achilles surgery last game.

Gore is a very wily runner, a guy who prefers to run north and south and maximizes every run. Though Gore can gash a defense for 1st downs he is limited on the top end and therefore not much of a big play threat. The key for a defensive player is to get low and wrap up or Gore can break the tackle for big yards.

The 49ers prefer to run the ball on offense, it's what they plan to do and its what they are good at. It sets up their passing game with play action. In the first game the Panthers were able to take that away limiting the running game via shutting down Frank Gore was a key. This Sunday Luke Kuechly will need to be the key master!

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