Jarrad Davis said he felt like a starved dog the last two weeks being forced to watch his Lions teammates play without him as he recovered from concussion and neck injuries.
Davis was back Sunday, and he enjoyed feasting on Carolina runners. The Lions have missed Davis' speed and instincts in the middle of their defense the last two weeks, especially in the run game. Before he suffered his injuries Week 2, Davis was graded among the top linebackers in the NFL against the run.
Sunday, Davis was all over the field harassing Carolina runners. He finished with eight tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass defended.
"It felt great, you know, it was awesome to be back," Davis said afterward. "I love this game, I love playing with these guys, my brothers. Just to go out and be able to give everything I had just meant everything to me today.
"I knew that it's been a long time since I've been on the field and I was just ready to be out there. I was chomping at the bit these past two weeks. Felt like a starved dog, you know, just sitting out there on the sideline not being able to do anything. To be able to come back today was extremely special for me to play with my brothers."
Carolina rushed for just 28 yards on 28 carries. Their longest run of the game was a nine-yarder by quarterback Cam Newton. While Carolina beat up the defense pretty good in the pass game (355 yards and three touchdowns), Davis' return made an immediate impact in Detroit's run defense.
"Without looking at the film, you can see he's active, he was moving around and he did some good things for us," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of his rookie linebacker. "He got downhill, made a couple tackles for loss, so it was good to have him back in there."
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked six times and hit another six times, which took its toll by the fourth quarter. Stafford finished the game, but was obviously limping in the fourth quarter, and looked to be in some discomfort after the game. It's something to monitor this week.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 5 game vs. Carolina Panthers.
On the other side of the ball, the Lions lost veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in the second quarter to an elbow injury. He went to the locker room before the half and never returned to the sideline. Before the injury, Ngata was playing very well. He recorded two tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss.
Caldwell did not have any injury updates for Ngata after the game.
Every football coach strives for consistency, but the Lions simply aren't getting it from their run game.
One week they're good, one week they're OK and the next week they'll struggle. After notching career highs in both attempts (20) and yards (94) against one of the best defenses in the NFL last week in Minnesota, Lions running back Ameer Abdullah ran 10 times for 31 yards Sunday. Detroit had just 50 yards (3.3 average) on 15 carries.
"Yeah, we just didn't run the ball as well as we'd like," Caldwell said. "The third-and-ones, the fourth-and-ones, the third-and-one we threw it, and obviously the fourth-and-one we couldn't get an inch. Obviously, that was disappointing."
The Lions head to New Orleans next week. The Saints entered Sunday as the 18th ranked rushing defense, allowing 109.5 rushing yards per game.