CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is getting a little bored with the lack of balls being thrown his way.
That happens when you earn the reputation as a shutdown cornerback with big-play potential. The last two weeks, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Philadelphia’s Sam Bradford have pretty much ignored Norman’s side of the field, throwing his way only a combined three times – two of those on screen passes.
It’s also why Norman is excited that T.Y. Hilton and the Indianapolis Colts are coming to town Monday night.
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Norman is expected to be matched up in one-on-one coverage with Hilton, who has been targeted on average more than 10 1/2 times per game, including 15 times last week against the New Orleans Saints.
Norman is a huge reason the Panthers are 6-0. He’s tied for the league lead with which he returned for touchdowns. That led to him being chosen NFC defensive player of the month for September.
But the past two weeks his production has plummeted.
”I can’t reach my goal without being thrown to,” Norman said. ”I’m trying to be the best corner. I’m trying to be the defensive player of the year. Shoot, I’m trying to have the most interceptions. My goals are stupid high.”
It’s hard to imagine Andrew Luck, even with as badly as he’s struggling with turnovers, not throwing to his favorite receiver. Hilton ranks sixth in the NFL with 606 yards receiving on 37 receptions and three touchdowns.
”I’d like to take that (challenge) on and see what it looks like,” Norman said. ”That challenge, I accept it.”
Things to watch for in the Colts-Panthers game Monday night:
LUCK’S STRUGGLES: This season’s most glaring problem in Indianapolis has been Luck’s poor play. He has completed 56.2 percent of his passes, is tied for third in the league with nine interceptions, and has the third-lowest passer rating among qualified quarterbacks -that despite missing two games with an injury. If the Colts want to get things turned around, they need a better Luck. But even Luck knows that will be a major challenge against one of the most formidable defenses in football.
STEWART ON THE RUN: Clearly the Panthers aren’t missing DeAngelo Williams much. Jonathan Stewart is spearheading the Panthers No. 1-ranked rushing attack with 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his last two games. He’s one of the toughest running backs to bring down on first contact. Williams, the team’s all-time leading rusher last season, was released in the offseason in a salary cap move and has since signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
THE WRONG CALLS: Chuck Pagano is under fire because of Indy’s underwhelming record. It’s not just wins and losses. In each of the past four games, there have been questionable play calls on the field.
When the Colts gave up a first down on a fake field goal, New Orleans scored 20 points in four minutes. Against New England, there was the botched fake punt. At Houston, the Colts gave up a desperation touchdown pass at the end of the first half. And against Jacksonville, Pagano called a timeout just before kicker Jason Myers missed a 53-yard field goal. Fortunately, for the Colts, he missed the second attempt to force overtime. They can’t afford more such mistakes.
CHANGE OF PACE: Indy heads to Carolina after back-to-back losses. It’s only the third time in Pagano’s 3 1/2 seasons the Colts have lost consecutive games – and they’ve never lost three straight in his tenure. Keeping that streak intact won’t be easy. The Colts are 17-17 outside the AFC South since Pagano took over, and they’re 0-4 outside the division this season.
NEWTON ON THE RUN: Cam Newton needs one more rushing touchdown to move into a tie with Kordell Stewart for second place all-time for TDs by a quarterback with 38. Steve Young is the record holder with 43, a record Newton could break before the end of this season. Newton has four TDs rushing this season in six games. To put Newton’s rushing numbers in perspective, only Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has more TDs rushing than Newton (50).
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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