Superman was ready to take flight. And then there was a fight.
In the first half of the Carolina Panthers’ 41-10 win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, multiple Panthers and Saints got into a scuffle after a leaping first-quarter touchdown by Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
The fight, which featured two Superman poses and a gate being knocked down, led to offsetting personal foul penalties and Carolina tight end Brandon Williams getting ejected.
“There’s a lot of testosterone on that field at one time, so it’s bound to happen any time you get a whole bunch of alphas, so to speak,” Newton said. “Somebody has to have that bend (but don’t break) mentality, and I don’t think anybody had that bend mentality today.”
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The scuffle started after Newton leaped over the line and extended the ball across the plane for Carolina’s second touchdown of the game with 6:46 left in the first quarter.
As Newton collected himself as he got off the ground, he inadvertently ran into Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan gave Newton a slight shove, and Newton stopped.
Newton looked at Jordan and then acted as if he was taking flight, flinging his arms behind him and hopping forward.
Newton then turned and faced the crowd to do his signature Superman pose where he feigns ripping open his shirt to reveal the ‘S’ on his outfit underneath. As he did that, Newton was pushed in the back by Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton. That’s when tempers flared.
“He was getting in our faces and I don’t take too kindly to that,” Lofton said. “I saw it as disrespect, so I did what I thought I had to do.”
Asked if he believed he incited the scuffle, Newton laughed and said it was a “great touchdown drive.”
Nearly every player got involved in the scrum, which went from the end zone past the goal post and through a gate that guarded a tunnel. Williams and Lofton did more pushing and shoving than the rest of the players, and Williams also got involved with Jordan.
“I just saw them going after our quarterback,” Williams said. “I went in to help out, keep them off the quarterback. And next thing you know a big brawl broke out. I was just defending myself.
“I felt like I was defending myself and just trying to help my guy out. Maybe a penalty or something like that, but I wasn’t expecting to get thrown out.
“I went to go help Cam out, and guys started pushing me.”
Williams said he didn’t regret getting involved but admitted he might later this week when he inevitably is fined by the league.
Cheering for injury? Newton took a hit midway through the third quarter and stayed on the ground for a few seconds.
As he was down, Saints fans throughout the Superdome cheered loudly – perhaps more loudly than they had since the first quarter.
Veteran Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said it was “disgraceful” that they cheered for someone being down and said he thought they were “classier than that.”
After the game, Newton brushed it off.
“I didn’t hear it,” Newton said. “I just took a shot, tried to collect my thoughts. And if they were booing, hey, we’re in New Orleans. Pretty sure they were excited about those guys and guess it’s kind of vice versa when they come to (Charlotte). Can’t blame the crowd.”
Working together: Center Ryan Kalil called Sunday the most complete game of the season for the offensive line.
Running back Jonathan Stewart totaled the most rushing yards he’s had in a game since 2009.
Together, the Panthers offensive line opened up holes for Carolina’s backs and had one of the most dominant offensive games this season.
Stewart, who got the start for the injured DeAngelo Williams, rushed 20 times for 155 yards. It was the second-most rushing yards in a game in his career, and his 69-yard touchdown rush on Carolina’s first play of the second half helped him get it.
While keeping Newton clean in the pocket by not allowing a sack or a hit, the offensive line also helped Carolina rush 40 times for 271 yards – an average of 6.8 yards per carry.
“I liked how physical he was. I liked how he ran,” Rivera said of Stewart, who seemed to break at least one tackle on each rush. “But I also think that there are a lot of other things that came into play. The quarterback running early kind of put them on edge a little bit. I think being able to throw the ball downfield like we did early got them a little bit soft at times. I think taking shots downfield helped too.”
The Panthers have been reluctant to name Stewart the starting running back despite him being more effective this season. A team source told the Observer the team prefers Williams because Stewart feeds off others better.
But Stewart’s 7.8 yards per carry says differently, and it’s unclear what the Panthers will do moving forward as Williams recovers from a fractured bone near the base of his middle finger on his right hand.
• The Panthers are a half-game out of first place in the NFC South at 4-8-1. The division-leading Falcons play one of the league’s best teams, Green Bay, at Lambeau Field on Monday night. Even if the Panthers win out, they’ll still need help to win the division.
• Carolina’s punt coverage unit entered the game as the NFL’s worst. It left New Orleans with an even stronger hold on that distinction. Panthers opponents averaged 14.9 yards per punt return entering the game, which was last in the league. The Saints had returns for 32, 30 and 6 on Sunday for an average of 22.7.
• Receiver Philly Brown suffered a right shoulder injury on a deep Newton pass in the third quarter and did not return.
• Saints receivers had an inordinate amount of drops. At least five Brees’ passes were dropped by his receivers.
By the numbers
5 Games since Derek Anderson played, dating back to the Green Bay blowout loss on Oct. 19.
3 Red zone touchdowns for the Panthers after getting just two in the previous five games.
• “I think that (offensive coordinator) Mike (Shula) has called good games. It is good to see us complete one.” – Carolina coach Ron Rivera.
• “We’re not that good. I don’t know if it’s being not able to handle a little bit of prosperity or a little bit of success. We’re not that good.” – New Orleans coach Sean Payton.
• “I don’t care what people say about us outside of this locker room. ... I got a lot of messages this week with (Saints fans) telling me what they thought about this game.” – Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis.
• “To call yourself a professional football team and play that way at home, that is embarrassing. We are all embarrassed on how we performed.” – New Orleans tight end Ben Watson.