NEW ORLEANS (AP) — 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 defensive end Cam Jordan, 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.

After the Panthers closed out a 41-10 victory, Newton chalked up the extracurricular roughness to nothing more than "a lot of testosterone on that field at one time."

Lofton said he'd respond to Newton's actions the same way "100 times out of 100."

"It was taunting," Lofton said. "I saw it as straight disrespect and I did what I thought I had to do."

Williams appeared to land punches thrown at Jordan, who was knocked down but apparently not hurt as he remained in the game.

Williams expected to be flagged but not ejected.

"I feel like I was defending myself," Williams said. "I feel like I was looking out for my team, sticking up for my team, and I know they would do the same for me."

Carolina guard Trai Turner said none of the Panthers were going to stand for Newton being shoved while celebrating a score.

"You can't let anybody mess with your quarterback, no matter who it is, not matter when it is," Carolina guard Trai Turner said. "When that unfolds, I'm going to be an enforcer."

Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen said he was among the players trying to break up the scrum.

"We scored. I went off the field and the next thing I know is there was a fight going on," Olsen said. "I just walked back and tried to get Brandon out of there, but by then it was too late. He was beating everybody up."

Intensity and frustrations were bound to run 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 (4-8-1) had a chance to be only a half-game out of the division lead with its victory in New Orleans, if Atlanta (5-7) also loses at heavily favored Green Bay on Monday night.

New Orleans (5-8) entered the game tied for first in the division with the Falcons, but had lost its previous three at home.

Also, the Saints' defense came in 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 ill-will seemed to carry over to the third quarter, when 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 once instance when he trotted from the sidelined to the middle of the field, alone, following a sizeable gain on a scramble and made an exaggerated first-down signal.

Many cheered when Newton remained down on his back for several seconds after a 2-yard run in the third quarter, but when Newton finally got up, apparently fine, the crowd quieted.

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