Josh Norman bounced back from his prime-time benching by intercepting former teammate Cam Newton and forcing a fumble, and the Washington Redskins held on to beat the Carolina Panthers 23-17 on Sunday.
Norman ended his 19-game interception drought by catching a jump ball thrown by Newton on a third-and-long play early in the second quarter, his first pick since Dec. 24, 2016. Norman also popped the ball out of Panthers rookie receiver D.J. Moore’s hands in a showcase performance against the team that abruptly cut ties with him after his All-Pro 2015 season.
“It was like I was playing cornerback against everybody,” said Norman, who had two game-altering plays and four tackles to put an embarrassing showing at New Orleans behind him. “I played within the defense and played within myself.”
Newton threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns on 27 of 40 passing and rushed for 43 yards in a turnover-marred loss. He engineered a late drive that got the Panthers to the Washington 16-yard line but threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs to seal the loss.
Carolina (3-2) was long before that doomed by turnovers, including Moore’s on a punt return that set up Smith’s 22-yard TD pass to Davis.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries and Alex Smith connected on touchdown passes to Vernon Davis and Paul Richardson for the Redskins (3-2), who looked like an entirely different team than the one that got stomped 43-19 by New Orleans on Monday night — when coach Jay Gruden benched Norman in the second half.
Offensive linemen saved their quarterbacks with some heads-up, sure-handed plays.
When the ball popped out of Newton’s hands late in the first quarter, Panthers left guard Greg Van Roten caught it and made up some ground — but got only a 7-yard loss as credit for his efforts. Redskins left tackle Trent Williams caught the ball when Smith fumbled early in the fourth and rushed for 8 yards to help set up a field goal by Dustin Hopkins.
KICK OUT OF IT
After hitting a 63-yard winner last week, Carolina’s Graham Gano missed his first kick of any kind this season when he was wide left on the extra-point attempt following Newton’s touchdown pass to Devin Funchess. Gano, who played for the Redskins from 2009-11, entered 7 of 7 on field goals and 11 of 11 on extra points.
Hopkins connected on a 56-yard field goal that made it 20-6, the longest of his NFL career.
In his second game with the Panthers, safety Eric Reid continued his tradition of kneeling during the national anthem. Reid took a knee just at the corner of the American flag on the field by the Carolina sideline, the only Panthers player to do so.
Reid last week became the first Carolina player to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Panthers: DT Kyle Love was slow to get up after being injured midway through the fourth quarter. … TE Greg Olsen returned after missing three games with a broken right foot. … WR Damiere Byrd was out with an ankle injury, forcing Moore into return duties.
In week seven, Carolina will travel to play the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday at 1:00 PM. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Cleveland Browns next Sunday at 1:00 PM. The NFC South leaders, the New Orleans Saints, will face off against the Baltimore Ravens at 4:05 PM. Lastly, the Atlanta Falcons host the New York Giants at Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Monday night. Kickoff is 8:20 PM.