Redskins’ Norman awaits Thanksgiving ‘big show’ at Cowboys
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Josh Norman’s eyes lit up as he reflected on the spectacle of playing Dallas on Thanksgiving Day that he experienced a year ago.
“It’s a big show,” Norman said. “It really is.”
The big show attracts Norman, the All-Pro cornerback the Washington Redskins will count on to contain the Dallas Cowboys’ passing attack. When the Cowboys beat the Redskins in September, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 292 yards, 102 to elite receiver Dez Bryant, whom Norman didn’t get a chance to defend until late in the game.
Dallas has Cole Beasley and tight end Jason Witten to complement Bryant, but Norman is itching for another challenge against one of the top pass-catchers in the game.
“Got to play your game. Got to play ball, man,” Norman said. “I think that’s what we’re all here to do. I think everybody is well-aware of that. I’m sure he is, too. I’m sure he’s looking forward to it just as much as we are.”
Norman and the Carolina Panthers’ defense last season held Bryant to two catches for 26 yards, despite Tony Romo and Matt Cassel targeting him eight times. Carolina beat Dallas 33-14.
This is a different, better Cowboys team with Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott transforming the offense, and Dallas hasn’t lost since Week 1. Norman said the Redskins haven’t talked about stopping the Cowboys’ nine-game winning streak, but the possibility of doing so and getting one step closer to first place in the NFC East excites him.
“We’re just trying to get to our seventh win,” Norman said. “Because it’s, wow, man, shoot ’em up out here with all these guys and teams that are over .500 and trying to win this NFC East crown.”
Coming from the NFC South, Norman’s first season in the East has been an eye-opener playing Washington’s three fierce division rivalries. Upon hearing chants of “We Want Dallas” from fans late in a 42-24 rout of Green Bay on Sunday, Norman joked that he thought, “OK, cool, y’all just go up there and take them on.”
Norman said he hasn’t gotten to the point where he can “hate” the Cowboys yet, but it didn’t take him long to realize big plays made in NFC East games become stories.
“It’s like, sheesh, these guys have had the rivalry for ages,” he said. “It’s like, geez, the history of that is just so old. And you want to live in that moment because your children’s children are going to talk about the game.”
There’s nothing Norman relishes more than being a difference-maker, and he’s coming off forcing a fumble at a crucial juncture against the Packers. The 28-year-old has been effective all season at limiting big-time receivers, but that’s not enough of an impact for him.
“If it’s shutting down your side for a whole entire game and being quiet like a church mouse. Yeah, it helps the team, but inside it eats at me, because gosh man, I want to do something to put up on the stat sheet,” Norman said. “I feel like I’m a stat sheet stunner, so you’ve got to do something to put up on the stat sheet.”
Norman’s biggest impression on the stat sheet has been in penalties, where he has the most of any player in the NFL. But he got a $75 million, five-year contract for his presence against top receivers.
The Redskins’ usage of Norman and fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland evolved since Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Bryant had field days. But all along coach Jay Gruden has raved about what Norman does in pass coverage.
Forcing turnovers makes him even more valuable.
“It’s hard to get corners that can create turnovers, so that was a major draw for us in my mind,” Gruden said. “He can create turnovers for you and obviously he can cover good people. He’s been everything we want so far and he’s going to continue to be. He’s got a good match up this week.”
NOTE: Long snapper Nick Sundberg will miss his second consecutive game with a back injury. Rick Lovato is expected to snap for Washington. ... WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder), DE Chris Baker (hamstring/illness) and LT Ty Nsekhe (ankle) are questionable for the Cowboys game. ... Redskins QB Kirk Cousins was named offensive player of the week after throwing for 375 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers.
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