There wasn't much to the Carolina Panthers' 17-6 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday from a competitive perspective -- the Panthers were eliminated as a serious postseason concern a while back, and the Raiders may already be eliminated from next season's playoffs. But there was more than enough drama from a human perspective, as these two teams went at it as if there was a decade-long blood feud between the two franchises.
The root of the problem seemed to take place when Raiders starting quarterback Carson Palmer was injured on a sack by Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy with 2:06 left in the first quarter. Hardy was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and after that play, according to Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, Oakland was out for revenge.
"You take our guy out, we're going to go and try to take your guy out," Kelly told the Associated Press. "We're not out to hurt someone, but when that happens ...''
With 5:48 left in the first half, the Panthers had the ball at their own 20-yard line. Kelly busted through, sacked Newton, and then seemed to take an inordinate amount of time getting up from the play. He pushed off Newton, who responded with understandable annoyance, and both teams started dancing. Kelly was flagged for his own roughness penalty, and the drama increased.
With 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, Raiders safety Mike Mitchell busted off the right defensive side and took Newton down himself. There was even more extracurricular contact after the fact, and Newton had had just about enough at that point. He jumped up from the turf, bumped referee Jerome Boger, and got right in Boger's face. Judging from Cam's body language (which we all like to do these days,) Newton wasn't wishing Boger a Merry Christmas.
"I was trying to get up," Newton said after the game. "Nothing good happens when you're at the bottom of a pile. With me looking at the replay I realize it looked like I kicked him but I was just trying to get up as fast as I could and get to the next play. He fell a certain type of way, then he put his hands in my face."
Newton will no doubt hear from the league about his etiquette, but we're betting the NFL's arbiters of decorum will be even more interested in what Kelly had to say. If there's one thing the NFL doesn't like above all else, it's defensive players messing with their quarterbacks -- in words or deeds.
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