Side judge Brian Stropolo was replaced as part of Sundays officiating crew after the NFL was alerted to photos Stropolo had posted on his Facebook page of him tailgating in Saints gear prior to an exhibition this season.
Stropolo worked the season-opening game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, and the league was informed by ESPN of several photos of Stropolo wearing Saints apparel, leading to the switch.
He was part of a crew of replacement officials working the game while the league has locked out its regular officials. Tim Keese replaced Stropolo Sunday.
Youve got to laugh, Panthers tackle Jordan Gross said. The guy didnt know he was going to be reffing the Saints game when he was tailgating.
Smith OK: Wide receiver Steve Smith briefly left the game and returned to the locker room in the second half to get his tender right knee checked.
Smith wore a brace on his knee and was limited in practice last week but said he doesnt have a serious injury problem.
Ive been fortunate I havent had knee problems. Its just one of those things, a little soreness. But just trying to, as they say, throw some Tussin on it and keep going, Smith said after the game.
Offensive tackle Byron Bell left the game with a twisted ankle in the second half and linebacker Thomas Davis was out at the end of the game with a hamstring issue.
Pick six: Safety Charles Godfrey came up with a key early play when he intercepted a Drew Brees pass and returned it 9 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, tying the game at 7-7.
Our defense wanted to come out and start fast. We pride ourselves on turnovers, Godfrey said.
Detente? Last season, Saints defensive back Roman Harper leveled Smith from behind after Smith had caught a touchdown pass.
There was no such drama between the two Sunday. In fact, when a scuffle threatened to break out between Smith and Saints defensive back Patrick Robinson, Harper came in and pulled Smith away from behind.
• It was surprising to see how many empty seats there were. It looked as if the building was perhaps half full when the game began, three-quarters full later. Was it the loss at Tampa Bay, the threat of rain or something else?
• Whether its the replacement officials or an NFL edict, Cam Newton twice asked for the ball after touchdowns to give it to a fan and both times the official refused, putting the ball behind his back.
After it happened the second time, Newton pointed to the fans in the west end zone while they booed the officials.
• Michael Jordan was among the people at the Panthers game Sunday. He made a pregame pass through the press box on his way to someplace else.
• Facing fourth and inches at the New Orleans 4 in the second quarter, the Panthers made a mess of it. Cam Newton started to the left side of the line, had no room then tried to pitch the ball to Mike Tolbert. Nothing about it worked and never looked like it was going to work.
Sometimes in this league you just get beat, Newton said.
• Rookie defensive end Frank Alexander is making his presence felt. He batted down a second-quarter pass, his third deflection at the line in two games.
• The Chairmen of the Board provided the halftime entertainment, bringing some Carolina beach music to the stadium. Nice touch having a mini-concert at halftime. Are The Embers next?
• The Panthers converted six of 12 third-down plays and several of the conversions were big plays.
On their second touchdown drive, the Panthers completed a 35-yard pass from Newton to Steve Smith on a third-and-16 play. On their third touchdown drive, Brandon LaFell had a 19-yard reception on third and 10.
By comparison, the Panthers converted two of 10 third-downs a week earlier in the loss at Tampa Bay.
By the numbers
5 Times in the last seven meetings that Brees has thrown for at least 300 yards against the Panthers.
12 Number of first downs the Panthers gained on the ground, two more than through the air.
40 Number of 100-yard receiving games for Steve Smith, who had 104 yards against the Saints.
12.2 Yards per carry averaged by New Orleans Pierre Thomas.
20 The second-fewest passes Cam Newton has thrown in a game (17 at Tampa Bay last December).
• Off the wall. The offensive line played great today. I wouldnt be surprised if we come in tomorrow and theyve all got big smiles on their faces and doughnuts in each hand. They played a great game. Mike Tolbert, on the offensive line.
• If you look at our defense and you look at the two offenses weve played, weve played the most unconventional offenses in the National Football League. You go from RG III and then to Cam Newton. Theyre just unconventional. So do we have to do better against those style of offenses? Yes, we do. Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer.
• We knew we had to get a few turnovers to beat this team. They made a couple of plays today and we made them pay for it. Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn
• You just want to get your first win. Especially early on in the season, its such a long year, you want to get that first win under your belt. It kind of gets the season rolling. Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.
Staff writers Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones contributed.