"I'll be honest, we practiced a little nervous,'' coach Ron Rivera said after Friday's practice. "You could just see it. Guys making checks they shouldn't. Or seeing pressure and turning the wrong way.
"Not a whole bunch, but I noticed it.''
Rivera didn't hesitate to share his observations and thoughts with the players. He told them to pull back and refocus, reminding this is only a big game because it is the next one.
But it is big in terms of the NFC playoff picture. Carolina (5-3) has won four straight games to move within a game of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. San Francisco (6-2) has won five straight to stay within a game and a half of the Seattle Seahawks.
Some might take the nervousness as a bad omen. Not Rivera.
"It's a good omen, because they realize how important it is,'' he said.
Injury updates: Starting right guard Chris Scott's sprained knee never responded to treatment and Scott will miss Sunday's game. Converted defensive lineman Nate Chandler will start. Cornerback James Dockery (shoulder), also is out.
Outside linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot) will be a game-day decision, but he practiced on Friday and is on the same routine he went through last week when he played.