Thomas Davis Willed the Panthers' Win against the Bears

Thomas Davis willed the Panthers win Sunday.  He simply refused to be defeated.  

Matt Forte, with the Panthers down 14 and the defense sucking wind, broke a tackle from Thomas Davis for a 56-yard gain on a screen pass late in the second quarter. Davis, who rarely misses tackles, hit Forte hard, but failed to wrap-up. At the moment, the play felt as another nail being driven into that Panther coffin Steve Smith started fashioning last week in Baltimore.  

The next play, however, Davis delivered a punishing hit, immediately jumping up to let everyone know that he wasn't going to quit--that he wasn't going to let the Panthers quit.

In team sports, with as many moving parts and variables that compose a football game, we hesitate in declaring a single play, player, or moment’s determination of a game’s outcome.  Nobody likes to chock a win or loss up to one penalty or dropped pass right?  Sunday it was clear, however, that one player, one who unprecedentedly returned from three same-knee ACL injuries, turned the tide for the Panthers.

Playing like a man possessed, Thomas Davis’s will kindled a fire to fight in Carolina. Cam Newton subsequently led an inspired drive to end the half with a touchdown pass to a hobbled Greg Olsen to bring Carolina within 7 points.  The Panthers showed a desperation and understanding that this was a fight for survival that was as much mental as it was physical.

The Panthers roared out of the locker room, forcing two turnovers and holding Chicago to just three points in the second half.  Defensive tackle, Kwann Short, commented, “We came out ready. We just never gave up.”  The rookie was being modest.  The Panthers defense showed the tenacity that fans expected after the season’s fast start.  The determination, that will to fight, exhibited Thomas Davis had become contagious.

The younger players fed off the intensity.  Luke Kuechly, who finished with a team high 11 tackles, became "more vocal" and demonstrated the confidence we haven't seen since Week 2.  The pass rush picked up and played a large role in flustering Cutler and forcing poor throws. For the first time in weeks, Carolina got to the quarterback. What's interesting to see, however, is a younger guy like Short play such a large role in this defensive resurgence. Short has played well all season, but Sunday he showed the gritty toughness needed if this team is going to be successful this season.

On the other side of the ball, Cam Newton played careful, confident football.  Supported by veteran Greg Olsen, Cam Newton portrayed the very attribute that has been a main source of criticism throughout his career--mental toughness.  Cam didn't sulk in this game. He didn't pout, even when the offensive line was letting the Bears just run right through. No, Cam was tired of losing. With the same intensity and will displayed by Thomas Davis, Cam led his team back from a 14 point deficit that felt near insurmountable midway through the second quarter.

It’s not surprising that Thomas Davis played such an important role in Carolina’s victory over the Chicago Bears.  Everyone saw the Panthers defense in Baltimore without him.  Following the Baltimore blowout, a lot of fans questioned Carolina’s future and, some even, their “heart.”

Having “heart,” it’s something fans like to easily throw out there when teams are performing below expectation.  It’s something so abstract that fans and critics can use the term without truly having a finger on a player or team’s pulse.  I’m not particularly comfortable with the platitude.  It’s really just something catchy fans say.  But there is one person who I can confidently say has heart, and that is Thomas Davis.  Following his second ACL surgery in his right knee, he told his son, Thomas, Jr, “I've never quit anything. I'm not a quitter."  Once again, TD should he doesn’t quit, and it was his effort that kept the Panthers pounding!