NEW ORLEANS — After setting the club record for career touchdowns earlier this season, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston tied another receiving mark in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Colston, a seventh-round draft pick in 2006, went into the game needing six receptions to break the franchise record of 532 held by former LSU star Eric Martin from 1985-93 and came up one shy.
Colston’s five catches Sunday moved him into a tie with Martin, which Martin will have a piece of for at least another eight months until the Saints open the 2013 season in early September.
Vilma ends drought
It took him 117 games, counting the playoffs, but Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma finally made his way back to the end zone on an interception return.
Vilma intercepted a Cam Newton screen pass and ran 18 yards for a score in the second quarter to give the Saints a 14-10 lead — nearly eight years after his only other touchdown.
Vilma’s only other pick-six came in the final game of his rookie season in 2004, when he returned an interception 38 yards against the St. Louis Rams.
Alexander gets start
Rookie defensive end Frank Alexander, a Southern Lab graduate who was taken by the Panthers in the fourth round of this year’s draft, started in place of veteran Greg Hardy and recorded three tackles and a quarterback hit.
Hardy, who has a team-leading 11 sacks, didn’t accompany the team to New Orleans after missing practice all week while dealing with a family matter.
The Saints inactives were CB Jabari Greer (concussion), DT Akiem Hicks (knee), LB Scott Shanle, TE Michael Higgins, DT Tyrunn Walker, G Ricky Henry and WR Saalim Hakim.
In addition to Hardy, inactives of note for the Panthers were RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle), C Geoff Hangartner (foot), WR Joe Adams (ankle) and LB James Anderson (back).
Saints running back Travaris Cadet injured his shoulder in the first half and did not return.
For the Panthers, Newton left twice in the second half after hard hits. On the second one, he returned after missing five plays when his leg was pinned beneath him by defensive end Turk McBride.
Panthers second-year coach Ron Rivera, whose future with the team is up in the air, was emotional after the game when he spoke to reporters.
Even though he was 7-9 this season and is 13-19 for his career, there’s been much speculation about his job status after general manager Marty Hurney was fired by owner Jerry Richardson earlier this season.
“I’ll sit down eventually with Mr. Richardson, and we will evaluate this season,” said Rivera, whose team ended the season with four straight wins. “Mr. Richardson has been fair, and I appreciate the opportunity he gave me.”
Saints kicker Garrett Hartley’s 53-yard field goal on the final play of the first half equaled his career-long, which came in a Week 2 loss to the Panthers in Charlotte. … Former Saints and Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme visited the Panthers at their hotel Saturday night and met with Newton before watching the game from their sideline. … Newton threw for 248 yards Sunday and has 7,920 yards for his first two seasons — bettering Peyton Manning’s mark of 7,874 yards in 1998-99.