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Panthers WR Steve Smith’s tenacity can’t be replaced

Don’t know the extent of Steve Smith’s knee injury but he was predictably downcast after the game. The scariest part of the injury: Nobody touched him. He just went down. Smith infuses the offense with his tenacity and personality. And he always draws the opponent’s best cornerback. He can’t be replaced.

•  In Ron Rivera’s post-game news conference a reporter asked how he felt about being booed because of his decision to punt with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. A man in the back of the room yelled, “We weren’t booing you. We were booing New Orleans.” The guy could have been a reporter; he was poorly dressed. Alas, he was an intruder, an intruder with a credential. He was not allowed to stay. Had he been a real reporter, we would have spotted him earlier at the buffet.

•  After the game Rivera, whose pants were covered with mud from his feet to his knees, went to the locker of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and said, “Great job, kiddo.” To Munnerlyn’s young son Rivera asked: “How you doing, young man? You know you’re better looking than your dad.” The kid nodded. “Did you just shake your head?” asked Munnerlyn. I asked the kid if he was better looking than his dad. Again, the young man nodded.

•  There were lots of kids in the locker room, some in uniform. A victory such as Sunday’s is that much fun. Added Munnerlyn: “It felt like a playoff game out there and I’ve never been part of a playoff game. It’s a great feeling. I felt like a little kid.”

•  I envied fans who sat and stood in the rain. Playing football in the rain is a blast, and watching it must also be. I almost wished there wasn’t a roof over my head, a glass window in front of me and hot coffee – no cream or sugar, thanks – a few yards away.

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