NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers apparently had enough of being pushed around this season.
Newton passed for three touchdowns, appeared to incite a scuffle with frustrated New Orleans after he went over the pile for another score, and the Panthers ended a six-game skid with a 41-10 rout of the Saints on Sunday.
Jonathan Stewart added a 69-yard touchdown as the Panthers (4-8-1) pulled closer to NFC South leader Atlanta (5-7), which plays at Green Bay on Monday night.
Newton’s jawing and “Superman” celebration of his 2-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter drew a shove from linebacker Curtis Lofton, igniting a scrum that burst through a closed gate behind the goal post and into a tunnel.
Panthers tight end Brandon Williams was ejected for punching Cam Jordan, but Carolina kept rolling.
Newton’s scoring passes went to Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen and Fozzy Whitaker.
New Orleans (5-8) lost its fourth straight home game to drop a half-game behind Atlanta.
The Saints turned the ball over on two of their first three offensive plays. Mark Ingram’s fumble on the New Orleans25 led to a field goal and Drew Brees’ interception led to Newton’s rushing TD.
The Panthers, who entered the game with a league-low 30 first-quarter points all season, scored 17 points inside the first nine minutes and New Orleans never recovered.
Brees was 29 of 49 for 235 yards and one late inconsequential TD to tight end Ben Watson.
Newton was 21 of 33 for 226 yards, was not sacked and was not intercepted. He also rushed for 83 yards. Steward finished with 155 yards rushing as the Panthers piled up 271 yards on the ground.
The Panthers’ point total was their highest of the season, surpassing the 37 they scored in an overtime tie at Cincinnati.
Carolina’s 497 total yards also was easily a season high, albeit against a Saints defense that entered the game ranked second-to-last in the NFL.
Receiving the opening kickoff, Carolina scored on its opening possession for only the second time all season, driving 80 yards on seven plays, capped by Newton’s 9-yard pass to Benjamin.
New Orleans then gave the ball right back on its second offensive play when Ingram caught a short pass but was stripped by Josh Norman. Colin Cole recovered at the New Orleans 25, setting up Graham Gano’s 37-yard field goal.
Brees went deep on the first play of New Orleans’ next series, looking for Joseph Morgan, only to be intercepted by Bene Benwikere at the Carolina 40.
Newton drove Carolina 60 yards in only six plays, at which point members of the Saints’ reeling defense lost their cool.
The scrum that ensued that score did little to change the tenor of the first half. The Saints continued to struggle offensively, while Carolina widened its lead to 24-3 on Olsen’s 16-yard TD catch.
Fans booed the Saints as they trotted to the locker room, and again when they returned to start the second half by punting after three plays. More boos rained down after Stewart’s long run.
When Whittaker turned a screen pass into a touchdown to make it 38-3 with a little more than five minutes left in the third quarter, fans filed out in bunches.