Davis leads Panthers to best start


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Stephen Davis was fighting cramps alone
in the locker room, determined to get back on the field and finish
the best start in Carolina Panthers' history.

Question on the Saints: Wasn't Brooks supposed to emerge as one of the league's top QBs?
Ratings-wise, Brooks hasn't had a terrible season, but he's having trouble making the right decisions in clutch situations. His performance is based more on the offensive line's inability to handle the constant turnaround they've faced in recent years. As with any quarterback ... the problems of the offensive line affect him more than any one else.

Question on the Panthers: Is Davis the most important offensive player in the NFC South?
Davis is definitely the most important player. Without Davis, the Panthers aren't nearly as good a team. He's the perfect complement for this team's defense, because he gives them a breather and is an extremely physical runner.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Davis made it back out after taking intravenous fluids to run
for a final 10 yards that sealed the Panthers' 19-13 victory over
the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, moving Carolina to 4-0 for the
first time.

"My goal was just to come back and finish," Davis said. "When
I got out there, I didn't say anything in the huddle. They told me,
`Let's get it."

Davis, who finished with 159 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run,
headed to the locker room with the Panthers leading 19-10 late in
the fourth quarter.

The Saints (1-4) cut it to 19-13 on John Carney's 26-yard field
goal with 1:43 to play, and Carolina needed one last first down to
close the win.

The Panthers knew it was time for Davis.

"We needed a first down, so I looked at Stephen and told him to
'Go get it, let's finish it here," quarterback Jake Delhomme

Davis gained the final 10 yards on three straight runs. When he
gained the first down on his 30th carry of the game -- allowing
Delhomme to take a knee on the final two plays -- Delhomme excitedly
pounded on his teammates' helmets to celebrate the win.

"Stephen Davis is the best thing that has ever happened to this
football team," safety Mike Minter said. "Never before have we
had a running back who could just grind the game out for us and
it's a pleasure watching him seal it for us from the sidelines."

There's little flash or fanfare to this team, just a steady dose
of Davis in every game.

Signed during the offseason, Davis set an NFL record as the
first back to pass the 100-yard mark in his first four games with a
new team. With 565 yards rushing this season, he also set a record
for the most total yards with a new team, besting Ricky Williams'
460 yards in four games with Miami last season.

Rod Smart -- aka "He Hate Me" -- had the flashiest play for the
Panthers, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. John Kasay
added field goals of 49 and 23 yards.

It was a confidence-building game for the Panthers, who opened
last season 3-0 before going on an eight-game losing streak. It was
a stat second-year coach John Fox reminded them off all week in
emphasizing how important it was to beat New Orleans.

Fox was still cautious after the game.

"It is what it is," he said. "It's still the end of the first
quarter ... and we are in a four quarter race."

The injury-riddled Saints, down six starters on defense, lost
their third consecutive game but showed marked improvement from
last week's 55-21 embarrassing loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Saints had 344 yards total offense -- 155 on the ground
against a Carolina team that prides itself in stopping the run.

"These guys are not going to give up," coach Jim Haslett said.
"I was proud of the effort they gave all week in practice. The
extra time they put in, the film work. Everything they did, they
stuck tight with it."

Deuce McAllister, who had a stiff back and a slight touch of the
flu, ran for 124 yards for the Saints. He also added four catches
for 59 yards.

"This is my job and those are my teammates, those are my
brothers," McAllister said. "I told them whatever I got, that's
what I'm going to give to them."

New Orleans never led, but was still fighting at the end.

Carney's second field goal pulled them within a touchdown late
in the game, and the Saints then tried to recover an onside kick.
But Carney's kick went out of bounds and the Panthers simply had to
hand the ball off to Davis to run out the clock.

Delhomme, a Louisiana native who spent five seasons as the
backup in New Orleans before signing with the Panthers in the
offseason, finished 15-of-23 for 124 yards.

He said he woke up at 6:05 a.m., too excited about facing his
former team to fall back to sleep.

"I was fine all week, then when I woke up and looked at the
alarm clock I thought, `You've got to be kidding me," he said.
"I was ready to play. I had to calm myself down a little bit."

Game notes
Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan returned from a two-game
absence with a pulled hamstring to finish with a team-high nine
tackles. ... The Saints offensive line kept the Panthers from
registering a quarterback sack for the first time in nine games.
... Horn's 21-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was the
26th of his career, moving him into fourth on the Saints' all-time
list. It was the first touchdown the Panthers have given up since
the season opener.


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Toddler Home Game Jersey New Orleans Saints Drew Brees #9Shop

  • Nike Toddler Home Game Jersey Carolina Panthers Cam Newton #1Shop

NFL News