Josh Norman and Charles Tillman spent just one season together with the Carolina Panthers, but that didn't stop Norman from learning the ways of the "Peanut Punch".
Josh Norman only spent one season with Charles Tillman, but in their time together Norman made sure to pick Tillman's brain about one thing in particular. Tillman, who retired after the 2015 season with Norman and the Carolina Panthers, was best known for his ability to force fumbles.
Well known by his nickname "Peanut," Tillman perfected the "Peanut Punch" over his 13-year career. Tillman forced 44 fumbles in his 13-year career – almost double more than any other defensive back in that stretch. He likely smiled when he saw his former teammate, Norman, execute a perfect punch to strip Green Bay's Jared Cook of the football in the Redskins' 42-24 Sunday night victory.
"It's just resonated with me, and finally, Peanut got there [to Carolina] and I got to see somebody really do it, and it made me think, 'Gosh, I want to be better at it than him,'" Norman said. "It's just putting another arsenal in my tool belt."
If the Packers had any hope of coming back late in Sunday night's shootout, Norman's forced fumble sealed Green Bay's fate. Trailing 35-24, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers had hooked up Davante Adams for a 37-yard gain, which was followed by an eight-yard completion to Ty Montgomery for eight yards to move the Packers to the Redskins' 38-yard line.
Rodgers completed his third straight pass on the drive, this time to Cook, who turned upfield looking to run after the catch. It appeared he had space and blockers, but Norman, who had almost no shot at tackling Cook, reached around a blocker to cleanly punch the ball out of Cook's arm.
"Yeah, you may get run over or you may take a big hit, a big shot, but if you come up with the ball, that's precious cargo," Norman said.
Redskins linebacker Will Compton was there to recover the fumble for Washington. Two plays later, Washington running back Rob Kelley ran 66 yards to the Packers' four-yard line. On the next snap, Kelley was in the end zone with his third touchdown and the "We want Dallas," chants were raining from the FedExField crowd.
"That was crazy," Compton said. "I was laughing. I was just like, 'Man, do you surprise yourself when that happens?' It's crazy, man. That's why [Norman] gets paid the way he gets paid. That's why he's one of the best."
Norman is not a very patient person. He likes to be involved. So while he understands sometimes it's actually a good thing that he's not involved in games – usually because quarterbacks aren't challenging his side of the field – he just wants to, "be around." After having four interceptions – two returned for touchdowns – and three forced fumbles in 2015, Norman has just one interception and two forced fumbles this season.
"I always want to make an impactful play no matter what," Norman said. "If it's shutting down your side for a whole entire game, being quiet like church mouse, yeah, it helps the team. But inside it irks at me because, gosh, man, I want to do something to put up on the stat sheet. I feel like I'm a stat sheet stunner. So you've got to do something to put on the stat sheet."
Norman paused as if to make his ultimate goal clear: the Redskins are currently 6-3-1 and in control of a playoff spot. Any way Norman can help the playoff cause is a positive.
"I'm just here to help out and win ball games," he said.
Forcing fumbles will certainly help the Redskins win games. When asked about developing the skill, Norman cited one of his oft-repeated quotes.
"You've got to always find ways to get better," he said.
Enter Tillman, who is tied for the NFL single-season record with 10 forced fumbles – a ridiculous number, especially for a defensive back. His "Peanut Punch" became so iconic that when Tillman announced his retirement during the offseason, he did so via video in which he stripped unassuming people in his life, including family members, of random objects. While it's unlikely Norman, or anyone for that matter, will reach the precision of Tillman's punch, that won't stop the Redskins cornerback from trying.
"Seeing [Tillman] do it, I want to be better at it than him," Norman said. "You've got to tip your hats off to him being on that team that year and showing me how to. So finally I got it to where, every time I do see it, better hold that ball high and tight because you may run me over, but I'm getting it in."