"The thing with Shula that has been different is probably holding everybody to a standard," Newton said.
More than one player noted that. But another key to Shula's success -- and maybe more significant -- has been giving players the freedom to voice an opinion and actually building the play-calling around those opinions.
"I love the way he listens to guys that are on the field," wide receiver Steve Smith said. "He will listen to in-the-game reports, and he'll ask directly [for input] at halftime and in the game. But the part that is phenomenal is when we go in the next series, he doesn't just listen to us and disregard us. He actually implements it and puts it in the game."
Best example: On fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 2-yard line Shula changed the play to one Smith suggested. The result was a 2-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Smith.
"Some of our biggest plays this year have come by making adjustments in the game," Smith said.