It was one of the best and most memorable seasons in recent memory for the Carolina Panthers. Led by the stingy defensive and an incredible season for Cam Newton, the Panthers shocked the league and took home the NFC South title with a 12-4 record, that ultimately ended with a loss to San Francisco. We invite you here to the Cover32 Panthers Award ceremony.
Team MVP and Defensive MVP: Luke Kuechly
The second-year middle linebacker anchored and led one of the league’s top defenses. Kuechly was a beast all year for Carolina, taking home the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Kuechly finished the season with a grand total of 156 tackles, 93 of which were solo, and had 34 stuff yard. He also was strong defending the passing game, notching four interceptions and seven passes defended.
Kuechly added 10 tackles and another pass defended against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional game, a 23-10 loss.
He was without a doubt the team’s best defensive player, and led a defense that finished 2nd in the NFL is most major statistical categories, only behind Super Bowl champion Seattle.
Offensive MVP: Cam Newton
Newton’s talent came together in 2013 as he finished the season with 3,379 passing yards while completing 61.7% of his passes. He threw 24 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions, while adding 585 rushing yards.
Newton also led four-game winning drives against the Patriots, Saints, Dolphins, and 49ers. Newton emerged as a true leader and was crucial in leading this team to the playoffs.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: None Available
The Panthers didn’t have get much, if any production from rookies on offense. Fourth-round pick Edmund Kugbila was expected to compete for the starting job at right guard, but suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. There were some expectations for former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner to contribute, but he rarely saw the field behind a crowded backfield.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Star Lotulelei
Lotulelei was the first of two defensive tackles drafted by the Panthers with the other being Kawann Short. The former Utah Ute considered a Top 5 pick, even a darkhorse candidate to be taken first overall before his senior season. However, he was discovered to have a rare heart condition that caused him to slip on many draft boards. As a result, Carolina got a steal, taking him at 14th overall. Lotulelei hasn’t disappointed, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th rated defensive tackle against the run in 2013-14.
Most Improved Player: Captain Munnerlyn
Munnerlyn has always exceeded expectations as a 7th-round pick, consistently starting since getting to Carolina. However, “The Captain” only became a great cornerback this season. In 2012, he finished the season with a 0.3 overall grade by Pro Football Focus, 54th among NFL cornerbacks. In 2013, he was legitimately close to ten times better, finishing as the 11th highest graded cornerback in the NFL with a 10.1 overall grade.
Best Moment: Domenik Hixon Touchdown in Week 16
Facing the New Orleans Saints, both teams had a 10-4 record with the winner controlling its own destiny for the NFC South division and a first-round
The Panthers, who have been dominated by the Saints in the Drew Brees era, wouldn’t allow the Saints to beat them again.
With 55 seconds left, Cam Newton and the offense took possession trailing 13-10. 33 seconds of game time later, Domenik Hixon was cradling a Newton pass in the end zone, seizing victory and the NFC South.