The New Orleans found another way to crawl under the Carolina Panthers’ skin on Monday night, a new form of trolling after New Orleans’ 12-9 prime-time victory.
They took one of North Carolina’s signature rappers, Petey Pablo, and his signature song praising the state, “Raise Up”... and then make a complete, total mockery of it.
Under Bank of America Stadium, amid the shuffling footsteps, the metal doors quietly opening, then quickly latching shut, and the whispers hanging in the cold, the music thumped down a single hallway.
The concrete walls throbbed, straining to contain the music blaring out of tremendous speakers.
This one’s for North Carolina! C’mon and raise up, take your shirt off, twist it ‘round yo head, spin it like a helicopter ...
Trolling? Mission accomplished, but in a whole new way.
After sweeping the Carolina Panthers in three games last season — including a wild card playoff game that ended Carolina’s season — the Saints, specifically defensive end Cam Jordan, “gifted” quarterback Cam Newton a bottle of wine to commemorate the occasion.
This time, it was the music streaming out of the New Orleans Saints’ locker room, as uncontainable as it was uncompromising.
North Carolina! C’mon and raise up, this one’s for you, uh-huh, this one’s for who? Us, us, us, yes sir!
And once those locker room doors finally opened, the music did not cease. The Saints’ celebration was on, not just for their own victory and inching ever closer to the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs, but also for having practically eliminated Carolina’s postseason chances.
Only unlike last season, when Jordan publicly dragged Newton after his poor performances, there was a little more restraint.
A few of the choicest soundbites from Jordan about Newton:
On jawing with Newton during the game: “I feel like I was talking and he just ignores me. Like, is he older? He might have an older brother syndrome. I felt like I was the older one, but like I said, he shrugged off my sack. So I’m gonna continue to harass him. I’m gonna continue to put pressure on him.”
On whether he saw any issues with Newton’s arm strength: “You know, he wasn’t really holding that ball long. And honestly, if he was feeling his shoulder, he shrugged off my sack, so I don’t know.”
And, on whether there will be another bottle of wine going Newton’s way: “I’m gonna drink my wine. I’m gonna keep it to myself for right now. You know, there’s something along the lines of not trying to make the bear mad. You know? Don’t poke the bear.”
Maybe not, but on the field, the Saints did far worse than just poke Newton. They sacked the former league MVP four times and a fifth quarterback hit, but more than that handful of plays, they completely snuffed out anything Newton wanted to do all night. He finished the night a paltry 16-of-29 for 131 yards and an interception. His passer rating of 52.5 was by far his worst this season, far from ideal timing in a game the Panthers needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Newton missed passes high, low, and wide on Monday night, but perhaps the best example of his shoulder woes came on his red zone interception just before halftime.
After linebacker Thomas Davis tipped a Drew Brees pass to James Bradberry for an interception, the Panthers were in prime scoring position before the end of the half. On second-and-3 from the 18, Newton fired a fade to receiver Devin Funchess on the right side of the end zone.
Newton said after the game he was trying to give Funchess an opportunity to make a play, but instead, the pass was underthrown, Funchess didn’t make a play on it, and the ball went straight into the awaiting hands of Saints cornerback Eli Apple.
“I expected him to throw it because I knew at some point they was going to have to take a shot,” Apple said of the play. “I just tried to get my head around, make a play on the ball.”
When asked if he could sense something wrong with Newton’s arm, Apple could only grin and widen his eyes.
“Man,” he grinned, “we just play the game. That’s all we do.”
Newton’s struggles finally came to a head on the game’s final drive. Needing a fourth-down completion to stave off defeat, Newton again misfired, throwing early and behind tight end Ian Thomas on what proved to be the team’s final play.
Outside of passes to running back Christian McCaffrey, Newton only completed eight passes for 64 yards all night.
Jordan said the Saints’ overall defensive pressure was a large part of the reason for Newton’s struggles, more so than the quarterback’s own physical concerns.
“I don’t think he cares about what I do,” Jordan said. “I’m more like a pest in his side. A pest in his eye? Because at this point, there’s too many pressures. I feel like our D-line really got after him and caused some havoc in the backfield.”
By the time Petey Pablo’s lyrics finally died down in the Saints locker room, most of the players were gone. Finally, the dull quiet from the rest of Bank of America Stadium reverberated throughout the visiting locker room, too.
Wait a second.
Jordan avoided answering the question the first time around. So, was he planning on sending Newton another gift this time, maybe something other than a bottle of his favorite 2012 Jordan?
“We’ve still got to play them a second time,” Jordan exclaimed with a laugh. “They brought a cup with them, I think something along the lines of they brought their own juice in a cup, a juice box, I don’t know what it was.
“But I do know that he’s got to go back to the refrigerator and pull out a bigger cup.”