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Deebo does it again: Why the Niners star wideout is so special

After a performance for the ages in prime time, the world had a lot to say about Deebo Samuel, but did any of it capture just how awe-inspiring it is to watch him play? I think not.

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

What can you write about the Mona Lisa’s unique beauty that hasn’t already been written? How can you describe the thrilling experience of skydiving without feeling trite or tired? Is there anything left unsaid about Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, The Godfather?

With this in mind, I declare we, as a people, are officially out of ways to describe how singularly talented Deebo Samuel is on a football field. Throughout last season, many tried to summarize exactly what he does and how special it is. You can detail every broken tackle or spin. You can pour over every statistic. You can hear other players, teammates, and competitors alike, speak about his particular brand of dominance.

But he’s reached a level in which everything about him in the sports media complex feels like a borrowed platitude or warmed-over cliche. He has to be seen to be believed, and the Niners’ star receiver provided ample reminder of his continued dominance on Monday Night Football, his sport’s biggest stage, short of the Super Bowl.

With a little over two minutes left in the second quarter on a 3rd and 3, Jimmy Garropolo targeted Deebo Samuel a couple of yards past the line to gain. The ball comes in hot and high, seemingly the only place that ensured it wouldn’t be intercepted, and in his initial demonstration of receiving prowess, Deebo climbs the ladder to secure the catch.

At that point, it’s a successful play. The Niners have moved the chains, and the drive to go up eight continues marching forward. However, that isn’t enough for Samuel, who lands like a cat with a bounce and move that shakes his first would-be tackler Taylor Rapp.

Suddenly, Deebo’s gotten a little upfield, and he’s surrounded by three defenders. The good news? There are about five yards of grass between them and him in each direction. This is the moment during every eye-popping play of Samuel’s where the anticipation builds to a fever pitch. He’s running free, and even with the odds stacked against him, you feel in your gut that Deebo’s about to turn on the jets and has the chance to go all the way to the house.

There’s just something about the way Deebo sees the action unfolding in front, to the side, and behind him, mid-play that allows the stud receiver to consistently make the right cut to avoid his pursuers. I imagine it must be like living in slow motion.

It’s a kind of full body, full mind, full field awareness which is alien to most human beings on planet Earth. He somehow lasers in on the exact perfect angle to keep the opposition off balance, just out of reach, or impishly ineffective.

This is exactly how he managed to split the duo of J.R. Reed and former All-Pro Bobby Wagner. Watch it again. Deebo fakes Reed out so hard that he’s helplessly flailing in the wrong direction, as number 19 has already cut and started gaining a head of steam to leave Wagner in the dust. When you add in a block by Kittle, there’s suddenly a whole lot of open space to dance through.

Obviously, there’s an equally important piece to the puzzle besides his ability to read a defense on set back on its heels like an open book. He possesses a physicality that meshes beautifully with his vision to go around and through defenders on a regular basis. He’s built thick enough to run over anyone in the secondary willing to attempt a takedown and strong enough to keep on trucking to the end zone.

That’s almost exactly what happened to the Rams' other All-Pro, Jalen Ramsey. Deebo couldn’t have put it better when asked about the minimal resistance he received from the corner.

“Yeah, I don’t know what he was doing out there. I went right by him. He was just backpedaling, I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”

To be fair, Ramsey made some attempt to bring down Deebo one-on-one, but given his speed and power, it’s possible that Samuel didn’t even feel him bounce off his body like a rubber ball.

After that, no one really comes close to him, as Deebo follows a great downfield block by Brandon Aiyuck to finish the play, scooting between the locked-up Rams player and the pylon. With a might celebratory heave, the ball almost definitely landed in an upper section, and it’s Miller Time.

All said and done, the play was 57 yards that was probably closer to 75 or 80 in true mileage, a handful of broken tackles, the wherewithal to find a path less traveled, and, as Joe Buck decried in the moment, another moment to add to Deebo’s expanding career highlight reel.

Near the end of the game, Troy Aikman took a moment to look at Deebo’s quarterback’s numbers. He declared that his 233 yards and touchdown pass didn’t do Jimmy G’s work justice. This is not meant as a sideswipe on Jimmy, but let’s be honest here...

The numbers don’t do Jimmy justice, Deebo Samuel does Jimmy justice.

When nearly half your pass yards come from one player’s YAC total — 101 on the night, the fourth time Deebo’s eclipsed 100 yards of YAC in a game — then you should be sending that man flowers, a bottle of champagne, and a well thought out thank you note. But, again, that’s old news by now. We know how Deebo can carry this team. (See: season, 2021)

Post-game on Scott Van Pelt’s Sportscenter, he broke down Deebo’s superstar performance in detail. While stipulating that he detests hyperbole when it comes to professional athletes and recency bias and yada yada yada, SVP went out on the line to designate Deebo Samuel as a “one of one.” Uh, yeah. Welcome to the party, pal.

We’ve been here saying he’s on a plateau all by himself since this guy was taking as many handoffs a game as he was hauling in deep balls and his production became even more efficient. We’ve been saying it since he held up the iced out Niner chain. We’ve been saying it since he had 95 yards through the air, a rushing touchdown, AND a passing TD to get the Niners to the playoffs. We’ve been saying it since he called his shot against Dallas. The point is we’ve been saying it.

It’s plain as day that Deebo Samuel smashed whatever mold he came out of to a million bits, so there could be no other like him in this league. He’s basically a Highlander. To borrow a phrase, he reasserts his one-of-one-ness every time he suits up. That’s what true greatness does. It perpetuates itself, it defies logic, it lends itself to overused phrases by the talking heads, and it jumps out of your TV screen to give you a chest bump.

It’s rarefied air, and we’re just lucky enough to be breathing.