Originally created 09/26/03

Davis tries to become Carolina's first three-time 100 yard rusher



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Stephen Davis doesn't pay any attention to how the rest of the NFL's running backs are doing this season. Carolina's new workhorse has a pretty good idea of where he stacks up.

Written off as too old (he's 29) and injury-prone (he missed four games last year with Washington), Davis has proven in Carolina he's still got a lot to offer.

He'll try Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons to become the first Panthers' running back to open the season with three consecutive 100-yard games.

"I'm getting better," Davis said, grinning. "Like wine, baby. Getting better."

Davis ranks fourth in the NFC and 10th in the NFL with 253 yards rushing. He has earned his rankings with just two games - the Panthers (2-0) were off last weekend - while the backs in front of him have had three.

But Davis, signed by Carolina during the offseason after Washington let him go, swears he's not looking at any numbers.

"I hear on TV that they're doing good, but as far as sitting down and looking at it, I don't do that," Davis said. "As long as I go out and do what I'm capable of doing and we're winning games, that's my only interest."

Only two other Carolina running backs have rushed for 100 yards in three-straight games (Anthony Johnson in 1996 and Fred Lane in 1997). But no back has ever done it to open the season and the Panthers have never had anyone do it consistently.

The Panthers started the year with just 25 individual 100-yard rushing games in the team's first eight years. Since running for 111 yards against Jacksonville and 142 against Tampa Bay, Davis now has 21 on his resume - all since the 1999 season.

"He has impressed the heck out of me," said Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking. "He's got the power to run over people. He finds the hole in every play, and when he hits it, he runs over guys at times. He's making linemen and linebackers and safeties miss down the field.

"I don't know how Washington ever decided to let go of him."

The Redskins let Davis go after seven seasons in which he became Washington's No. 3 career rusher with 5,790 yards, and the only player in franchise history to run for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

From 1999 to 2001, Davis averaged 326 carries for 1,385 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Davis had just 207 carries for 820 yards last year in Washington, the first season they used coach Steve Spurrier's wide-open offense.

Carolina took him when he became available, building its offense around the idea of giving Davis the ball at least 25 times a game.

His critics wondered if Davis could carry that kind of workload. He never doubted it.

"I knew I had plenty left," he said. "I'm getting an opportunity. And I'm just making the best of my opportunities. That's all I can ask for."

The only thing Davis has yet to do in Carolina is score a touchdown. But he promised that will come, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

Atlanta gave up 132 yards and two rushing touchdowns, both by fullback Mike Alstott, to Tampa Bay in a 31-10 loss and Davis is hopeful to put up similar numbers.

"You can take some encouragement but you can't go by that," said Davis, who watched the Falcons-Bucs game on TV. "The thing we've got to do is get ourselves prepared this week, run the game plan."