Quarterback Cam Newton was troubled by what he said he heard from referee Ed Hochuli during the Carolina Panthers' 27-22 home victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Newton was upset over what he felt was a borderline late hit by New Orleans' Tyeler Davison — but was even more baffled by the explanation he said he received from Hochuli.

After taking a hit near the sideline as he released the ball, Newton got up looking for a flag and turned toward Hochuli for explanation. The referee said something to Newton that caused the QB to stop in his tracks and laugh in disbelief.

"The response that I got was, 'Cam, you're not old enough to get that call,' " Newton said. "I'm looking at him like, 'What?'

"Geez, I didn't think you had to have seniority to get a personal foul or anything like that.' "

Newton, 26, is in his fifth NFL season.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora told the Associated Press "officials make decisions based upon the play on the field, and no other factors." He added: "On the play in question, there is no roughing the passer because the quarterback is out of the pocket and a runner, and no unnecessary roughness because the contact is not late."

• LAURINAITIS AT THE TOP: Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis became the franchise career tackles leader. The Wayzata High School product has 922 tackles over six-plus seasons with the Rams after finishing with eight against the Steelers on Sunday. He passed late Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, who had 915 tackles over 15 seasons from 1962 to '76. Laurinaitis, 28, has started all 99 games since being drafted in the second round in 2009.

• SMALL FIRE IN ST. LOUIS: The start of the game in St. Louis was delayed nearly 30 minutes by a small fire from sparks emitted during a pyrotechnic display for player introductions. It appeared the fire started as the rest of the Rams players trotted through towers that shot flames high into the air.