SANTA CLARA – It took four weeks, but Deebo Samuel finally had a breakout moment in Monday night’s 24-9 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
After leading the NFL with 18.2 yards per reception last year and setting an NFL record with eight rushing touchdowns as a receiver, Samuel inked a big three-year extension this offseason. The Niners are counting on his otherworldly playmaking ability and he showed it against the Rams.
With about three minutes left in the first half, Samuel caught a ball from Jimmy Garoppolo just five yards off the line of scrimmage then ran 52 more through the Rams defense en route to a mesmerizing score.
The Rams showed terrible effort tackling on the play. Just take a look at cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who looked like he wanted no part of Samuel on the open field tackle around the 25-yard line.
Deebo noticed, too.
“Yeah I don’t know what he was doing out there,” Samuel said with a smile. “I went right by him. He was just backpedaling, I was, like, ‘What is going on?’”
Ramsey is known as one of the best cover corners in football, but he looked overmatched on this one.
“Every time I get a chance to get the ball in my hands it’s just my mentality to try and make it a big play,” Samuel said. “It’s just second nature to me right now.”
Deebo also broke off a 51-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 but was eventually tracked down by the defense. This time, the Rams looked like they didn’t want to compete. Deebo did the rest.
“Get the ball in his hands, let him get some space and some good things are gonna happen,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.
Deebo finished with a season-high 115 yards on six catches. Though he lined up in the backfield at to start the game, he finished with just two carries for 10 yards and was split out wide most of the night while Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed it 18 times for 74 yards and a 32-yard score.
After his back-and-forth with Aaron Donald last season, Deebo also probably took some extra satisfaction against the rival Rams. Los Angeles didn't record a sack while the San Francisco defense recorded seven in a dominating effort.
Jimmy G finished with a pedestrian stat line of 16-of-27 for 239 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. But he got the ‘W’, adding another $379,000 to his pocket with his incentive-laden deal. He's now 7-0 all-time against the Rams in the regular season, though Los Angeles bounced the Niners out of the NFC title game last year.
“Having two weeks under his belt, I knew Jimmy would come out there and be the Jimmy that we know,” Samuel said. “Even though we missed a few, we got some work to do, but he did a good job on third down.”
As Deebo noted, Jimmy G made a couple of key early third-down connections with Jauan Jennings before Wilson's touchdown. Garoppolo also connected with Deebo on a 29-yard pass play on third down that included some nice running after the catch, Robbie Gould missed a 42-yarder to end the drive. The Niners had to settle for a Gould chip shot in fourth quarter after Deebo got stonewalled near the goal line, so they gotta feel like they left some points on the board.
The 49ers punted four times, down from seven last week, but don’t look like they’ve fully hit their stride on offense.
Their 17.8 points per game ranks tied for 27th in the league. But when the defense is allowing a league-best 11.5 points per contest, and chipping in points like with Talanoa Hufanga's electrifying pick-six, the Niners have a little bit of wiggle room for a slow offense.
“I think they haven’t given up 20 points yet in a game so far this year,” tight end George Kittle said. “By that means, as long as we score 21 points, we’re gonna win some football games. It’s just on us to score some points and hold onto the football.”