Two weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks didn’t test Josh Norman once in a 27-23 Panthers’ victory.
Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles tried Norman one time – and he batted away what could have been a touchdown.
After four games and four interceptions to start the season, Norman hasn’t seen many passes come his way in recent weeks. Two screens went to his side against the Seahawks and one screen against the Eagles.
Those three passes, along with his pass breakup at the end of the first half against Philadelphia, has been all the action Norman has gotten in the passing game lately.
But Norman asked for this. After getting his second interception return for a touchdown of the season in Tampa Bay, Norman questioned why quarterbacks were throwing his way. They must have taken notice.
“I kind of do (miss being thrown to),” Norman said. “I’m not going to lie. At first I was like, man, but now I kind of do. I want to be a part of the game. Now it’s trying to find other ways.”
With 14 seconds left in the first half on Sunday, Philadelphia quarterback Sam Bradford looked for tight end Zach Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown. But Norman suckered Bradford into the throw and was able to get his arm on the pass and deflected it.
“I saw where it was a quick switch (and the) tight end was running,” Norman said after the game. “I can’t believe Bradford threw the ball. I was right there underneath him. I thought he was going to throw it on the back shoulder and that’s why I was trailing him then he threw it inside so I had to make a play on it.
“I couldn’t really go with my other hand, even though I was thinking it at the time. Knock it down and they got three points. It was big going into halftime.”
If Norman is going to continue to wipe away one side of the field, Carolina’s defense can roll coverages to the other side. If opposing quarterbacks won’t throw to the receiver Norman is covering, the Panthers can use the defensive back who would normally help Norman to help someone else.
Norman shadowed Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans in Week 4 and Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins in Week 2, but the past two weeks he has played one side of the field rather than one receiver.
That may change Monday night against Indianapolis. The Colts have T.Y. Hilton, who has been targeted on 35 percent of Andrew Luck’s pass attempts so far this season.
If Norman shadows Hilton, he could see more targets on Monday.
“That speaks for itself, in my opinion, if they’re not going to throw his direction,” Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said of Norman’s recent successes. “You know, hey, that to me is the greatest sign of respect an offense can give someone.”