Nothing wrong with Mitchell's emotion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell continues to be a target, even when he's done nothing wrong.

Case in point: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was asked after Sunday night's 31-13victory about a moment during the first half in which Mitchell went about 20 yards out of his way to celebrate a play against him.

"I had no idea,'' Brees said matter of factly. "I was thinking about the next play, the next opportunity. We ran the play again, though, and scored a touchdown.''

In other words, Brees probably noticed.

To backtrack the history here, Mitchell referred to Brees as "soft'' on a Fox Sports L.A. podcast after the Saints beat San Francisco 23-20 in Week 11. It was in reference to a late sack of Brees in which safety Ahmad Brooks was penalized for a hit to the head and neck, negating a fumble.

Mitchell believed it was a legal hit, so he took a stand for a fellow defensive player. Last week before facing Brees, he found himself defending the comment.

On the first play of the second quarter on Sunday night, with Carolina leading 6-0, Mitchell had a nice breakup of a Brees pass to Lance Moore in the end zone. He then ran toward the future Hall of Fame quarterback, wagging his finger in a "no, no'' gesture for 10 to 20 yards.

Two plays later, Brees connected with Marques Colston for a 6-yard touchdown pass in front of Mitchell. Colston appeared to be the second or third receiver in Brees' progression.

On Monday, Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was asked what he thought out Mitchell's celebrations. There seemed to be an insinuation the one just mentioned came at an inappropriate time.

As Mitchell noted, both of his big plays came before the game got out of hand.

He had every right to celebrate.

Regardless, this was McDermott's response.

"I mean, this is a game of emotion and intensity,'' he said. "I'm never going to ask a player not to celebrate. There is a time and place for it, absolutely. But at the same time, these guys put a lot of hard work into their craft. And they put a lot on the line when they take the field.

"I'm never going to ask a player to hide his personality.''

Mitchell has given the defense an attitude with his aggressive nature on plays and in the way he celebrates -- even in the way he speaks during the week.

Still, he gets criticized. Earlier this season, he was given a hard time for celebrating a non-penalized hit on St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford while Bradford was on the ground with a torn ACL that ended his season.

At the time, though, Mitchell had no idea Bradford was hurt -- much less seriously.

That Mitchell chose to keep playing hard and celebrating when he made a big play on Sunday is commendable, even if it's not advisable facing a player of Brees' caliber. It shows his passion, that he's willing to put himself into every moment until the final whistle.

While McDermott admitted you have to celebrate with "class'' when you're down, he didn't suggest you shouldn't celebrate. He actually was pleased with the intensity and emotion players showed down 21-6 at halftime en route to the defense's worst performance of the year.

"There was improvement in the second half,'' he said. "If that takes us being emotional and celebrating, then so be it. As long as we're not disrespecting the opponent and it's within the guidelines and rules of the league, then let's go.''

As Mitchell told me, he gets excited when he makes a play regardless of when it is. He doesn't plan out a celebration. It just happens naturally.

"If I make a play, I'm going to be excited about it,'' he said. "If my teammates make a play, I'm just as excited for them.''