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Carolina Panthers

Norman-Beckham matchup boils over

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – This wasn't the kind of show everyone wanted to see.

All throughout the week, the football world talked about the individual battle Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. were going to wage.

And they're sure to be talking about it well after Carolina's 38-35 victory.

Before he answered the first postgame question from a massive media horde waiting at his locker, Norman needed a moment to gather himself. You could see how visibly upset he was. He was seething as he spoke.

"What he did, obviously, is on display," Norman said. "You all saw it."

This matchup between two of the best players at their respective positions turned ugly in a hurry.

Beckham dropped a sure touchdown during the first series of the game. He had beaten Norman deep downfield, but the pass bounced off his hands.

From there, the intensity began to boil over. After just about every play, Norman and Beckham exchanged words, shoves and often both.

Beckham was penalized for a late hit on Norman at the start of the second quarter. It was surprising there hadn't been a flag thrown on Beckham sooner.

In the third quarter, after the Panthers had built a 35-7 lead, Beckham caught just his second ball of the game, a 5-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning. A clearly frustrated Beckham proceeded to receive his second unnecessary roughness penalty for more post-whistle antics directed at Norman.

Norman said he was doing his best to keep his cool. These exchanges after the play are not uncommon. But the line was dangerously crossed moments later.

"I was trying to tell myself not to retaliate because I know how I can get," Norman said. "It was just crazy, man."

Late in the third quarter, New York running back Shane Vereen rushed for 19 yards up the middle. That's when Beckham targeted Norman from about 15 yards away and tried to take a shot. He ran and leapt into the air looking to hit Norman high and created a scary helmet-to-helmet collision.

Norman took great exception, and both were penalized for unnecessary roughness. Beckham didn't address his launch after the game.

"The only thing I saw was him coming 15 yards downfield and he went straight for my head," Norman said. "I hope I pulled back the mask of what this dude really is."

At that point, it was impossible for Norman to get Beckham's actions out of his mind. And it wasn't just Norman that was affected.

"We didn't keep our focus and maintain our composure out there," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm referring to us as a whole football team."

Tight end Greg Olsen shed some light on the challenging circumstances.

"Our guys have a lot of pride. Our guys aren't just going to stand there and let people come at them with that they feel are unnecessary plays," Olsen said. "But at the same time, we need to understand the circumstances and do a better job of keeping our composure."

The Giants were mounting a comeback and riding a wave of momentum. Carolina's 35-7 lead vanished when Beckham hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass, tying the game 35-35 with just under two minutes remaining.

"I was locked in on him. He hit me with a double move," Norman said. "I've got to be stronger right there, regardless of a push-off or whatever. I need to be better."

While Beckham celebrated his game-tying score, the Panthers offense prepared for a chance to win the game in regulation. And that's just what they did. Norman watched from the sideline as Graham Gano's 43-yard goal sailed through the uprights as time expired.

Norman and the Panthers won the day. Again.

"I just went out there and did my job," Norman said. "I came out here to play, and we got a win."

View game action photos from Carolina's 38-35 win over New York.

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