Carolina cornerback Josh Norman is annoying. Very good, but annoying.
Count Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones among those who don’t understand Norman or his exaltations about himself and his level of play.
Things should get interesting between them when the Falcons (7-7) face the Panthers (14-0) Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Norman, who’s having a Pro Bowl season, apparently got underneath the skin of Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Sunday to the point to where Beckham’s game devolved into a game-long wrestling match that included several helmet-launching hits.
But Jones, who likes let his play do his talking, has problems with Norman, too.
Jones didn’t like how Norman was credited with holding him to just four catches for 33 yards in the Panthers’ 38-0 stomp-down of the Falcons on Dec. 13.
“I don’t get like when people say Josh Norman is tough,” Jones said. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good player. But they play ‘Cover Two.’”
Jones’ point: Norman gets safety help in that scheme and is not shutting anybody down by himself.
“If you want to be a lock-down corner, I feel like you, yeah, you’re following people, but you’ve got play one-high (no safety help),” Jones said.
Jones clearly doesn’t consider Norman a cornerback in the same class with the Jets’ Darrelle Revis, the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman and Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson.
“They follow guys and they say, ‘That’s your side of the field,’” Jones said. “But like I said, no shots at him or nothing. He’s a good player.”
While Jones was talking, Roddy White chimed in.
“Come on out and play some ‘man,’” White said.
While the Falcons’ defense imploded in the first quarter of their last meeting, the offense believes it finally has a plan that will work against the Panthers.
They ran the ball 33 times and passed 35 times against Jacksonville on Sunday. If they can remain balanced against the Panthers and don’t commit turnovers, the Falcons may have a shot at an upset.
“We have to continue to keep spreading the ball around,” Jones said. “Defenses can’t take away everybody. We have got a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, especially with (running back Devonta) Freeman in the backfield. You can hit Roddy, (Justin) Hardy and myself. We just have to find that matchup and see what we can take advantage of and continue to keep hitting it.”
There were a bunch of skirmishes with the Panthers in the last meeting.
“This game is not about Julio and Josh Norman,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’ll all have to keep our poise.”
Quinn had to pull right tackle Ryan Schraeder from the game after he took a Panther to the ground with 8:17 to play.
“Well, I made a mistake,” said Schraeder, who drew an unsportsmanlike penalty. “I was just frustrated with the game. I took the play a little past the whistle. It was probably something that shouldn’t have happened.”
Schraeder, who was replaced by Jake Long, was fine with getting the hook.
“He took me out and let me get my mind back to normal,” Schraeder said. “We talked. I talked to him about it. We have things figured out.”
Jones and Schraeder know they must maintain their cool. Some find the Panthers annoying for all their on-field chatter and dancing.
“That’s kind of how it was the whole game and I think the refs were kind of fed up with it,” Schraeder said. “They weren’t going to let it fly anymore.”
Their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Falcons need to pull off the shocker on Sunday and then get some help from Seattle and Minnesota to stay alive.
“They got us pretty good last time,” fullback Patrick DiMarco said. “We are going to come out and hopefully, have a good game plan and be ready for them.”
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