Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott spent a restless night Sunday after his defense had a meltdown of historic proportions Sunday at Atlanta.
But the thought of how cornerback Josh Norman might have helped the Panthers was not keeping McDermott awake.
The way Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones torched the Carolina secondary in a 48-33 victory led many to suggest the result was tied to the Panthers’ decision to let Norman leave – including Norman himself.
Asked about the Panthers’ performance during an interview on the Dan Le Batard Show on Monday, Norman said: “You get what you pay for.”
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While others play the what-if game with Norman now in Washington, McDermott says he’s moved on.
“I haven’t thought about Josh on our defense since the minute he left. That’s just the way you have to do it,” McDermott said. “We have new players in those positions and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in those players. And I expect them to do the job at a high level, and I’m sure they expect the same from themselves.”
That did not happen Sunday, when Ryan and Jones became the first players to rack up 500 yards passing and 300 yards receiving in the same game in NFL history.
Jones’ 300-yard receiving total (on 12 catches) was the sixth highest in history, and fourth best in the Super Bowl era.
Jones said he was surprised the Panthers stayed with single coverage on him, although McDermott said that was not the case.
“He had help over the top at times and help underneath other times. We tried some different things,” McDermott said. “Obviously it was his day, and he and Matt were in sync. That’s a big reason why they’re the No. 1-ranked offense in the league. Having said that, if you’re not on your A game – and we weren’t – you’re going to get exploited.”
McDermott said he knew there would be growing pains in the secondary after the Panthers drafted three cornerbacks a week after removing the franchise tag from Norman, who wound up in Washington on a five-year, $75 million contract.
“I’d be naive to think that that wouldn’t have been the case,” McDermott said. “That’s the case every year where you have players at new positions, particularly in the secondary where there’s a lot of communication that goes on.”
It looked like there was miscommunication on several of the Falcons’ big plays, including Jones’ 75-yard touchdown catch.
Atlanta had touchdown drives of 98, 99 and 92 yards. The Falcons finished with 571 yards, the second most allowed in Panthers’ history.
“It happens over the years. I’ve been in this league a long time and sometimes unfortunately this happens,” McDermott said. “I woke up last night on the hour just about every hour and had to talk myself back to sleep. ... Welcome to life in the NFL. Doesn’t make it right – the way we played (Sunday) whatsoever. But going forward is what’s important.”