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What They're Saying: Panthers defense holds Manning in high regard


**In the last meeting between the Broncos and Panthers, Manning faced some foundational components of this current Carolina defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, was in his rookie season, as was 2015 All-Pro Josh Norman. But it's safe to say those players have developed significantly since then, rising to the ranks of being considered among the top players at their respective positions.

As they prepare for their second game against the Broncos, they're thrilled to have another chance to play against Manning after falling in that game 36-14.

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"He's the sheriff, man," Norman said. "He's my idol since I grew up. I know I played him two years ago and I have the ultimate respect for that guy. There's no one better, I feel, in my book. Even though he's got some age on him, still, he's the sheriff, man. Shoot, if I even get the ball from him, if he throws an interception, if God allows me to be there for it, I'll probably bow to him because that's how much I think about the guy."

For Kuechly—who is, in essence, the quarterback of the defense facing Manning—the mental challenge of going against the 18-year veteran is a thrill of its own.

"He's a guy that's got all kinds of calls and you've got to try to figure something out, but at the end of the day, you've just got to play your job because I'm sure he's got fake ones, he's got real ones," Kuechly said. "We're excited to be in this situation and it's cool for me to go against a guy like him when you spend your life watching him."

Outside linebacker Thomas Davis, one of the longest tenured players on the Panthers defense, joined his fellow first-team All-Pro teammates in lauding Manning for his level of detail in helming the offense and the success he's had throughout his career.

"Having a quarterback like Peyton Manning that knows this game and he has total command of their offense, he presents a huge challenge with the weapons that he has around him," Davis said. "It's going to be a big test for our defense, but we're up for the challenge.

"I mean, he's going to go down as—if not the greatest—one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game and you don't just lose that overnight. You look at some people talking about his arm strength, but in the Patriots game, it looked pretty good to me. He looked good throwing the ball to me, from watching the game. We have to understand that as a defense, that he's a true competitor. He's a guy that's going to come and want to do whatever he can to make sure that his team leaves that field victorious so we have to make sure that we're doing whatever we can in our power to make sure that that doesn't happen."

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