CHARLOTTE – A week ago, Greg Olsen said his game goals consisted of being on the field for victory formation.
It's safe to say Olsen exceeded whatever goals he set for himself this week.
A week after the Panthers beat the Vikings with Olsen not making a catch but making it to the end of the game, the Pro Bowl tight end broke out with nine catches for 116 yards in Carolina's 31-24 victory over the Packers.
"It's been an up-and-down year personally – on the field, off the field, hurt, rehab – so it's nice to get out there and contribute, play well and help the team win," Olsen said. "It's nice to kind of get that off your back and then just move forward and try to be productive."
Olsen entered Week 15 with four catches for 38 yards on the season. He broke his foot in Week 2, returned to action in Week 12 but caught just one pass for 10 yards before soreness sent him back to the sideline one play into the second half. He sat out the next game at the Saints but returned last week – though he didn't record a single catch.
But Sunday, suddenly, he looked like the player who in 2016 became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
"I could have broken out in tears," said tight end Ed Dickson, who admirably held down the fort in Olsen's extended absence. "I know how hard he worked, how hard he rehabbed and how it hurt him to not be out there for us. But he was still there for us – he was the main reason I was having success. His positive outlook and his film study carried over to the things I did."
Olsen caught a 9-yard pass on the Panthers' third offensive play, and he never stopped catching them, highlighted by a 30-yard touchdown on Carolina's drive to open the second half. He last caught nine balls in a Week 5 game against the Buccaneers last season.
"I got the catch early, something easy, and it was nice to just get back in the game – kind of get tackled, knocked down, hit, bounced around a little bit," Olsen said. "Then we just started clicking, started hitting some of the plays that we've hit for a long time around here. Nothing special, just stuff that we've been very good at and very productive with.
"Once you kind of get going, it's funny how you start getting into a rhythm and feel like every ball is going to come your way."
Olsen's nine-catch performance in 2016 actually came with Derek Anderson at the controls for an injured Cam Newton, but Olsen has long been Newton's favorite target.
Olsen has led the Panthers in catches and receiving yards every season since 2013. That streak will end this season, but Olsen and Newton appear ready to get back to where they left off.
"We've played a lot of games together, have had a lot of completions together and have seen a lot of things the same way for a long time," Olsen said. "I always thought that the better I felt and the better my movement got better, it was just a matter of time before we found our groove. I'm glad it came today."
View the top photos from Panthers vs. Packers by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez