Sometimes, Kyle Shanahan’s uber-complicated job can be reduced to one simple task: get the ball to Deebo. The 49ers coach did it last week (at Samuel’s behest) and it led to a key touchdown in the win over the Dallas Cowboys. Six days removed from playing at football’s jewel at Jerry World, Shanahan relied on the same formula at Lambeau Field on Saturday night.
As the 49ers and Packers dueled in the snow on the Frozen Tundra in their thrilling Divisional Round drama, Samuel starred for San Francisco once again. The do-it-all wide receiver/running back added another title to his ever-expanding job description, as he also became a key kickoff returner. Samuel racked up three catches for 44 yards, carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards and added 59 more yards on two kickoff returns.
Samuel could barely limp off the field Saturday night in the fourth quarter when his work was done. For his final act, with just over a minute remaining, Samuel picked up a 9-yard gain up the middle to move the chains on 3rd-and-7 and put the 49ers into field goal position. Robbie Gould knocked a 45-yarder through the uprights three plays later as the clock expired, sending the 49ers to a 13-10 win and the second NFC Championship of the Shanahan era.
Even though Samuel looked like he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg as he hopped off the field after the crucial carry, he was all smiles in his postgame press conference. TV cameras also caught him appearing to labor on the sideline bench in the fourth quarter, but Samuel said he just suffered a “stinger.”
“I was hurting all game,” Samuel said, “but I’ll be all right.”
As it turns out, Shanahan actually had planned to pass initially on Samuel’s crucial run, but changed his mind during a timeout. Samuel said the decision was an endorsement of the team-wide confidence.
“It shows the trust that Kyle has in all 11 guys out there,” Samuel said. “In this offense, in the run game, every guy is accounted for blocking. It’s just one guy left and you gotta go out there and make the play.”
Deebo turned on cannonball mode and couldn’t be stopped. Perhaps his signature moment in a season that’s had plenty.
Earlier in the day Saturday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that the 49ers will try to sign Samuel to a long-term extension this offseason that could be in the neighborhood of $20 million annually. Once again, Deebo proved he is one of the most unique offensive (and special teams) talents in football Saturday.
“Deebo – he’s an athlete, man,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “He does it all.”
Samuel might have tacked on some more dollars onto an upcoming extension with his performance against the Packers, but he’ll have another chance to shine next week in the NFC Championship, between the winner of Sunday’s Los Angeles Rams-Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup.
“I’m just in shock,” Samuel said.