Falcons' Damontae Kazee ejected after hitting Cam Newton late

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee was ejected for unnecessary roughness at 12:14 of the second quarter after a helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

As Newton slid to the ground, Kazee dove low and made helmet contact with Newton, causing Newton to go to the sideline momentarily to be checked by the medical staff. Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith then went after Kazee, but Smith was not ejected. Smith did receive an unnecessary roughness penalty to offset Kazee's.

"I just felt it was dirty," Smith said. "It was dirty, he was one of my teammates and you stand up for your team."

Newton bounced back with a solid game, completing 32 of 45 passes for 335 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. But the Panthers lost the game 31-24.

After the game, he spoke about the hit.

"It looked worse than it was. I'm just lucky pretty much nothing happened," he said. "This game isn't fit for cheap shots like that. End of the day, can't blame, he is playing as hard as he can. This is what this football game brings."

Kazee was in the starting lineup Sunday after the Falcons lost starting strong safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending ACL tear. Kazee actually started at free safety, with starting free safety Ricardo Allen moving over to strong safety.

"He's going to get a little more situational-aware," Allen said of Kazee. "I understand where he was at. He was already engaged in the cut because Cam is a really big dude. He's a big guy. You can't just run up in there and stop flat-footed on him because he might run your ass over and keep running. So Kazee engaged early, and Cam slid late. I kind of know where he was coming from. I knew what he was doing. You want to plan for the jump out of the way, but it's going to happen like that sometimes.

"I'll just tell him to keep fighting. It's going to happen. You're going to get penalties. Just keep fighting. Take it day by day."

Jordan Richards entered the game after Kazee was ejected.

Kazee was flagged for two helmet infractions during the preseason.