Kuechly began the season at outside linebacker instead of middle linebacker; After considering Kuechly as starting middle linebacker, head coach Ron Rivera decided to start veteran Jon Beason at middle linebacker due to his experience. When Beason was placed on injured reserve due to a torn Achilles tendon, Kuechly was moved to middle linebacker. Due to his strong performance at middle linebacker, Rivera announced that Kuechly would be the team's long-term starter at that position even after Beason returned from his injury. In a 30-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14, Kuechly recorded a career-high 16 tackles and was honored as NFC Defensive Rookie of the Week; Kuechly received the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month award in December, recording a league-high 59 tackles over the final five games of the season. He became the second Panther after Julius Peppers to receive the award. Kuechly led the league with 164 tackles during the regular season and recorded 8 pass deflections, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. He was awarded the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and received the Defensive Rookie of the Year award from Pro Football Weekly.