Like his namesake character in the classic movie “Friday” – Deebo takes what he wants.
Deebo Samuel set an NFL wide receiver record during the regular season with eight rushing touchdowns. Guess what? He scored again on Sunday in the postseason. Samuel’s 26-yard scamper in the third quarter ended up being the game-winning touchdown in the 49ers’ scintillating (and controversial) 23-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Following the game, Samuel shared an anecdote about how the play went down.
With about six minutes left in the third quarter, K’Waun Williams hauled in a Dak Prescott pass for an interception and went down at the Dallas 26-yard line. Facing a short field, Samuel felt like taking matters into his own hands.
“When K’Waun got the interception, I looked at [coach] Kyle [Shanahan], like, ‘Give me the ball. I got you,’” Samuel said. “And so I just went out there and the next play I scored.”
The next play, Samuel lined up on the left hip of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. With the help of pulling guards Laken Tomlinson and Daniel Brunskill, Samuel burst toward the right edge. Things looked clogged toward the sideline but Samuel found some daylight in the middle of the field and burst up the field, weaving through defenders. Despite being in heavy traffic, Samuel didn’t appear to get touched on his way to the end zone.
“He hit another gear,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “He always does, but it shocks me when I see it and shocks defenses when they see it for the first time. He played his ass off today.”
Samuel caught three passes for 38 yards, while rushing 10 times for 72 yards to an NFL postseason receiver record.
Shanahan has trusted Samuel as his top playmaker all season and didn’t shy away from him in the biggest moment.
“When I look at him talking that way, it’s extremely motivating and he makes it a lot easier to call plays,” Shanahan said.
Garoppolo said he was nearby for the quick pep talk.
“I literally saw it happen,” Garoppolo said. “We were walking on the field together, me and Deebo, and I saw him look at Kyle. He had that look in his eye and Kyle made a great call. Let the guy go make a play.”
Shanahan said Samuel actually improvised.
"It was unbelievable," Shanahan said. "It's not at all where we thought the play would go, where it was designed to go. But when you got a guy out there who's just running and is very tough, he's got the skillset and sees the field very well, usually it goes outside. But he stopped and reversed the field. If he gets a lane, he's running through everyone's arm tackles. Deebo's been a stud all year."
Expect Samuel to remain a focal part of the 49ers offense heading into Saturday’s showdown against the No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.