CHARLOTTE – The week of preparation in the NFL involves a deep dive into tendency.
What are our tendencies? What are the tendencies of our opponent?
Coaches ask themselves these questions on a weekly basis, hoping a break in tendency can catch the opponent off guard for a big play.
That's exactly what happened when quarterback Cam Newton connected with tight end Greg Olsen for a wide open, career-long 78-yard touchdown catch against the 49ers.
The Panthers got the look they were hoping for from the 49ers defense as offensive coordinator Mike Shula dialed up a play for Olsen to attack the middle of the field. It appeared as though safety Antoine Bethea was expecting an outbreaking route from Olsen, something he and Newton have had great success with over the years.
"If you're preparing for us and I'm there in the slot, a lot of the passes I've caught have been corner routes and outbreaking routes," Olsen said. "It was a nice changeup off that, and we hit the right coverage at the right time with the right place.
"Pre-snap, they had two high guys, and my job is to try to lean that guy out and cross his face, and we had some routes on the back side to worry the backside safety. The backside safety jumped Kelvin (Benjamin), and the frontside guy was really worried about my outbreaking stuff. So I was able to slip inside and just go."
Shula was waiting for the big play to unfold with bated breath.
"Just... don't overthrow it," Shula joked.
"The worst thing about being up there (in the box) is that you can't do anything about it. You sit there and you see it unfold about a second before everybody else on the field does. Cam's throwing the deep balls so well and with good touch. And then you've got big targets out there, so it was good to see that and see them hook up."