Luck, skill, whatever you want to call it, Brandon Aiyuk’s dive for Brock Purdy’s deep pass-ricochet in the NFC Championship was a thing of beauty. It can be considered the play of the game and was the moment the floodgates opened for the San Francisco 49ers to get back into the game after the Detroit Lions were up 17 points earlier.
Well, as amazing as that play was, it didn’t make the No. 1 spot on ESPN’s Top-10 plays. Aiyuk wasn’t having any of it and took to Instagram with this video, wondering what everyone else was: “Huh?”
For those curious, the play that beat Aiyuk for No. 1 was a classic of its own: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson catching his own pass in the AFC Championship after it was batted at the line of scrimmage by Kansas City Chiefs defenders and running it for 15 or so yards before getting tackled. Jackson managed a 1st down. It was pretty awesome in its own right. We’ve seen quarterbacks catch their own passes before. I don’t think we’ve seen them dash down the field for over 10 yards with their own pass very often.
It’s hard to make an argument for Aiyuk. Both plays came from miscues that could have led to absolute disasters. In the Ravens’ case, the Chiefs wound up winning anyway, but should Purdy’s pass have been picked, things could have gotten deflating real quick.
All that said, I can’t stop laughing and feeling for Aiyuk, knowing what might have been the play of the game got bumped for the play in the other championship game.
Fun Fact: When Aiyuk was drafted, John Lynch joked that Aiyuk was expensive since the 49ers had to trade up in the first round to get him, but he was “worth it.”
Aiyuk quickly responded. “I’ll be worth it. I’ll be worth everything.”
That catch and Aiyuk’s body of work speak for themselves. If we’re completely honest, the 49ers got a steal by getting him 25th (they traded with the Minnesota Vikings). Aiyuk should have gone top-10.
Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
Oh, by the way, for everyone here, treat yourself to this amazingly awesome video of Aiyuk’s mom at the NFC Championship celebration. I can’t stop watching this enough:
Think Mama Aiyuk is excited to see her baby boy play for a Super Bowl in their home state? pic.twitter.com/HNrYJzGvly— Jason Dumas (@JDumasReports) January 29, 2024
Kyle Shanahan was asked about where Aiyuk’s catch might stand in 49ers history given the magnitude of the moment, and he ended up gushing about Aiyuk:
“I think it could. We have to finish the year out, but that was amazing. Even the second or third play of the game when we threw him the slant and go, the corner was bailing and usually when it happens, we like to say he is just chasing a ghost. For him to dig out like that and make sure it wasn’t a pick was huge.
The next one was very similar, but he dug out and got a little bit closer to it and to be able to make that play was so big. I didn’t think he was going to ever recover. He seemed like he was yelling at me the whole time to challenge it because he just knew that he scored, but I was told he didn’t. So that’s why I didn’t. I think they ended up touching him, but he ended up scoring three plays later. So it was awesome. It was as big of a play.
BA made two huge plays on third down last week with two low throws that probably would not have been able to win without those two plays. When we were down in this game and it seemed like they were running away with it early Brock made an off-schedule throw and BA almost came down with another low catch and missed it. That was a big one.
For him to come back and completely redeem himself and even more with one of the best catches I’ve ever seen in the biggest moments was we will all be hugely grateful for our whole lives.”
On his 51-yard reception, Aiyuk recorded the second-fastest speed of any player in the NFL during Championship weekend, per Next Gen Stats.