CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers running back Mike Davis said the key to his success this season has been that he “runs angry.”
Carolina is 3-0 with Davis as Christian McCaffrey’s temporary replacement. Davis has reason to be even angrier Sunday when he faces his former team, the Chicago Bears.
The Bears released Davis last November, in part because they felt he didn’t fit the offensive system and because parting ways with him meant they’d get a compensatory draft pick. The Bears ended up using that pick, No. 140 overall, to acquire quarterback Nick Foles in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But Davis said he’s not using the snub as motivation.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to run angry," Davis said. “I’m going to always do that. The emotions, don’t try to make the game bigger than it is. Be me. Don’t go out there and make stupid penalties that affect the team.”
The Panthers are on a roll, beating the Chargers, Cardinals and Falcons in succession to rebound from an 0-2 start and move into a tie with Tampa Bay and New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.
Davis has been a big part of that turnaround.
Since McCaffrey went on injured reserve, Davis has racked up 351 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns in three starts. McCaffrey could return next week, but for now Davis will continue to carry the load.
“I think he’s running with tremendous physicality,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “He’s not getting tackled by the first tackler. I think we found some runs that he feels really comfortable with and I think there’s just great second effort, great yards after contact. That’s the mark of a good back.”
Here are some things to watch from the Bears-Panthers game:
The Panthers could be without three starters on the defensive line.
The team placed two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday with a shoulder injury, while edge rushers Brian Burns (concussion) and rookie Yetur Gross-Matos (ankle) are dealing with their own issues and didn't practice Wednesday.
Carolina's pass rush has produced three strip-sacks in the past three weeks, but hasn't been a dominant force overall. Carolina is 29th in the league in sacks and is 30th in third down defense. Getting pressure and getting off the field could be an issue for the Panthers if Burns and Gross-Matos don't play.
The Bears have been the NFL’s comeback kings. They joined seven other teams with three wins in the first five games after trailing by 10 or more, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, when they beat Tampa Bay last week. Chicago trailed 13-0 in the first half on the way to a 20-19 victory. The Bears also staged big fourth-quarter comebacks in the first and third games, rallying from 17 down at Detroit and 16 down at Atlanta.
The offense has been a sticking point so far. The Bears switched quarterbacks, with Nick Foles replacing Mitchell Trubisky during the Atlanta game. But with the Super Bowl 52 MVP starting the past two weeks, they still haven’t clicked the way coach Matt Nagy would like. He lit into the offense after the Tampa Bay game, upset about incorrect route-running, lapses in blocking technique and missed chances for Foles.
“The players truly understand what our standards are here, with this offense and obviously you look at the lack of production right now and the lack of scoring and where we’re at,” Nagy said. “We know. We’re trying to figure out the answers of where things are and how we can get better and score more points and be more productive to make it easier on our defense.”
Despite being 4-1, the Bears enter the game as 2 1/2-point underdogs to Carolina.
“I dunno about the underdog status,” Foles said. “I think the mentality is we’re not dwelling on our record at all; our record means nothing to us. We know where we need to get better, and a record is not going to do that.”
Bears safety Eddie Jackson made NFL history facing Carolina as a rookie in 2017 when he returned a fumble 75 yards and an interception 76 yards for touchdowns. That made him the first player with multiple defensive TDs of 75 yards or more in the same game. And the Bears beat the Panthers 17-3 at Soldier Field.
“I don’t really dwell on that game as much,” Jackson said. “It’s a new team for them. New offense, new quarterback. New everything. New system for us.”
The Bears will have to make sure to defend wide receiver Robby Anderson, who is off to an impressive start with the Panthers since being acquired as a free agent from the New York Jets. Anderson is fourth in the NFL in receptions (36) and yards receiving (489) after five games and is proving that he's more than just a deep threat.
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