The Redskins' 26-15 loss to the Panthers on Monday night spoiled cornerback Josh Norman's meeting with his former team during a night in which both sides of the ball struggled.
Redskins cornerback Josh Norman would have preferred the final score be different as he stood at midfield greeting familiar opposing players following the Redskins' disappointing 26-15 loss to the Panthers on "Monday Night Football."
The heralded reunion with his former team, buoyed the entire week by the media, didn't have the ending he, and the Redskins, would have preferred. The game itself – one which promised to be emotional – took some getting used to on Norman's behalf.
"Had to pinch myself for a second there, stop and look at it all, kinda realize that I'm at the other side of the spectrum over here," Norman said. "It was kind of cool to see it outside looking in, here now with the Washington Redskins, seeing what it takes, seeing what you need to do to continue to go out there and execute what the coaches ask what you're doing and doing it in a way where you're technically sound. And so we're out here and they're trying to do that today and they just made one more play than we did. They got the job done."
One victory wouldn't have validated any of the drama that had incurred back in April, when the Panthers unceremoniously rescinded Norman's franchise tag, allowing Washington to swoop in and sign him several days later. It would have, however, let the Redskins maintain control of their playoff destiny with two games left to play, a more serious topic the entire team could understand.
"I knew the guys, I knew what they was going to do, the routes they was running was similar to going back to what I saw in practice when I was with them. They did a couple things to switch up, which was cool," Norman said. "At the same time, I don't know. Just going out there, playing ball and trying to get a 'W.' I think that's the biggest thing. We didn't get that accomplished tonight, we didn't."
For some of the team's frustrating inefficiencies on Monday, the defense played much better situational football overall than it had in previous weeks. The defense held Carolina to just 4-of-15 third down conversions and the Panthers only scored 1-of-4 times in the red zone, which was only because the Panthers began that drive at the 1-yard line after the offense fumbled to open the second half.
Still, quarterback Cam Newton threw for 300 yards – including a 30-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn that seemed to be the result of some missed coverage – and running back Jonathon Stewart ran for 132 yards, a nice chunk of which came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter with the game still a one-score proposition.
Stewart's 34-yard run helped waste precious time on the clock and moved Carolina closer to field goal range, where they eventually tacked on three more points to ensure victory.
"We got to find a way to be better, situational football, four minutes to go and we're on the field on defense, we can't keep allowing teams to run the ball all the way down the field and settle for a field goal or whatever," defensive end Chris Baker said. "We got to get in and get out, three and out."
Norman suspected earlier in the week that Newton would challenge him based on his competitive spirit. That occurred occasionally in the first half, targeting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who Norman primarily covered, for some short gains over the middle.
Early in the third quarter though, Norman may have scared him away when he nearly grabbed an interception falling down into the end zone. Lining up with Ginn outside, Norman caught up to the speedy receiver on a go route just as the ball came down, grabbing it in mid-air but dropping it as his back hit the turf.
"I wanted him to [throw in my direction more], that's what I was talking to him about on the football field," Norman said. "That's why we're really jawing at each other, kinda regret that there. Threw that long ball to Teddy [Ginn], came down with it, popped up from me. After I didn't see any more of him all night. I think [Mike] Shula got in his ear. I wish he didn't because I'm pretty sure he would have uncontained the beast, I wish he woulda."
Carolina instead took advantage of a defense that was more weary than usual, watching the Redskins offense produce several three-and-outs that allowed for little time to rest in between drives.
With a trip to Chicago looming, the Redskins will have to shift focus quickly during another short week. As much as it would have been nice for Norman and the Redskins to have taken advantage of their situation, they know it does them no good to carry their frustration with them into the rest of the week.
"Not going to sit here and wallow in this," Norman said. "They beat us, they beat us. I don't know what else more there is to say about it. They're the victors today. Now, going to get ready for Chicago, they on our schedule on Saturday. Can't sit right here and worry about what we did wrong here. It's hogwash, got to ready for the next opponent, got to be prepared cause I guarantee one thing, Chicago don't care. They don't' care."