NEW ORLEANS -- Carolina Panthers tight end Brandon Williams was ejected from Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints for throwing punches during a scuffle between the teams that spilled behind an end zone, through a closed gate and into a tunnel.
The scuffle began after Cam Newton dove over the pile for a 2-yard touchdown, giving Carolina a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. After the score was confirmed, Newton began his typical "Superman" celebration, pulling his hands apart across his chest.
Newton, who had also been jawing at Saints defenders, was then shoved by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who drew a personal foul on the play, but not an ejection. Moments after Lofton's shove, numerous players from both sides vigorously joined the altercation.
Williams appeared to land punches thrown at Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who was knocked down but apparently not hurt as he remained in the game.
Intensity and frustrations were bound to be high in this matchup of NFC South Division foes who have both struggled much of this season, but remained in playoff contention.
The Panthers came in on a six-game losing streak, which included a loss to New Orleans in Charlotte.
Still, Carolina had a chance to pull within a half-game of the division lead with a victory in New Orleans and an Atlanta loss at heavily favored Green Bay on Monday night.
New Orleans entered the game tied for first in the division with the Falcons despite a 5-7 record, but had lost its previous three at home.
Also, New Orleans' defense entered the game ranked second-to-last in the NFL, then gave up 17 points in less than nine minutes to a Panthers squad that had only managed 30 first-quarter points in its first 12 games.
When the scuffle erupted, Newton was on the edge of the scrum, and got shoved into a padded gate behind the goal post. On impact the gate gave way and the scrum spilled into a tunnel.
The scuffle did little to change the tenor of the game. During the third quarter, Jordan received a personal foul for a late hit on Newton along the sideline. Newton responded shortly after with a 26-yard scoring pass on a screen play to Fozzy Whitaker in the third quarter, giving Carolina a 38-3 lead.
Newton also seized several opportunities to tease the fans in the Superdome, including an exaggerated first-down signal after one of his many sizeable gains on scrambles.
Boos rained down from the stands often, though usually directed at the home team, and seats were mostly empty with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.