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49ers in Five: Things have come full circle for Brandon Aiyuk

The 2020 Brandon Aiyuk has emerged once again

Everything you need to know in about five minutes

Late in overtime on Sunday in a game they absolutely had to win, the 49ers ran a play specifically designed to get Brandon Aiyuk open in space to score a walk-off touchdown potentially. Think about where that is for a second. Kyle Shanahan looked at his play sheet and thought, “Let’s get the ball in Brandon Aiyuk’s hands.” In September, Kyle Shanahan was making up excuses for Trent Sherfield to start over him, and in December, they’re going to him with the game in the balance.

Here was Kyle Shanahan talking about Aiyuk during his conference call yesterday.

“Each week now and it’s been a number of weeks in a row...He’s getting better every time he plays football, whether it’s practice or whether it’s games. It wasn’t that way early on in camp, not from a lack of effort, but there’s been something here that just his attention to detail and the littler things, that’s been very impressive.

He’s a very smart guy. I think he’s grown up a lot in these last few months, just communicating with the quarterbacks better with the coaches and really fun to coach here. It’s been fun to watch him have some success doing it and me and the whole team is appreciating it.”

Brandon Aiyuk has looked like the player we saw down the stretch last season in his last six games. Our own Akash Anavarathan put it in perspective nicely.

This is the Aiyuk we all thought we’d see right out of the gates this season, and it has been a welcome sight - particularly with all the injuries to the 49ers offense so far this season. Defenses might be able to limit Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, or Brandon Aiyuk on a particular Sunday, but they can’t take away all three for an entire game - especially when they’re also worrying about stopping the run.

Some will be quick to credit Kyle Shanahan’s tough love for Aiyuk’s increase in production from the start of the year. Others, like me, will say that Shanahan shouldn’t get credit for putting out a fire that he himself started. Regardless, what matters most is the fact that Brandon Aiyuk has emerged as a legitimate weapon opposite Deebo Samuel, and the 49ers are reaping those benefits during the most important part of the season.

You can hear more on Aiyuk as well as the latest injury updates coming out of Week 14 in today’s 49ers in Five podcast, which is available on this page, and everywhere you get your podcasts.