Deebo Samuel backed up his trash talk with the Eagles with a monster performance on Sunday. The 49ers offense goes as he does. In many ways, Samuel is the heartbeat of the 49ers. His physicality embodies the team’s philosophy of punishing opponents into submission. His confidence runs through the entire team.
Just before Samuel’s third touchdown on Sunday, he told Brandon Aiyuk to meet him in the end zone. Babe Ruth may have called his shot, but Samuel calling a touchdown and running through Eagles defenders might be just as impressive, if not more.
The splits with Samuel on the field bear that out as well. Samuel’s stat line of 38 receptions, 590 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns, 160 rushing yards, and four rushing touchdowns through 13 weeks may seem modest, especially for Samuel, but a deeper look shows Samuel’s impact goes beyond numbers.
Samuel’s presence has gravity, and Kyle Shanahan uses him in motion to draw attention or when he needs a big play.
Here are the splits for the 49ers offense when Samuel starts and finishes a game: 9-0, 33.4 PPG, 411.4 total yards, and 23.6 first downs.
Without Samuel: 0-3, 17 PPG, 333.3 yards, and 19.3 first downs.
Yes, Trent Williams was missing for those games as well, but it was obvious that the team needed their playmaker in big moments during the three-game losing streak.
The 49ers offense has stars everywhere. Christian McCaffrey has been the best running back in football and is on pace for 2,000 scrimmage yards. Aiyuk is ascending into a top-flight receiver in his contract year. George Kittle is still a top tight end and a nightmare to tackle. But it’s Samuel that is the engine for this offense, not only when the team needs a play, but keeping their physical identity.
Every team in the NFL has been trying to find their version of Deebo. There is only one Deebo.