Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Deebo Samuel shows off unique ability (and neckwear) in primetime

Nov 16, 2021 at 3:56 AM--

Deebo Samuel showed the NFL world on Monday night why he might just be the 49ers' most valuable player over the first nine games of the 2021 season.

He also showed off a rather attractive and expensive-looking necklace that seems to be well on its way to being a new 49ers tradition.

Samuel's play -- and his necklace -- drew a fair amount of buzz in the 49ers' 31-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football. Samuel caught five passes for 97 yards and one touchdown Monday night while also occasionally lining up at running back, where he was given five carries for 36 yards and one touchdown. He now has 979 receiving yards on the season, which according to ESPN Stats & Info is the second-most for any 49ers player through the first nine games (Jerry Rice, 1,006, 1990), along with 517 yards after the catch, which is the most for any NFL player since Percy Harvin in 2012.

Samuel's performance was instrumental in getting a 49ers offense rolling that had been inconsistent throughout the team's 3-5 start.

"We just know what we're capable of," Samuel told Steve Wyche of the NFL Network following the game. "I'm mad it took this long, but we had to put all the pieces together and re-evaluate the team."

The first of Samuel's two touchdowns came on an eight-yard run to cap an 11-play, 91-yard drive in the second quarter, while his second -- a 40-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-5 from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo -- put the game out of reach at 31-7 early in the fourth quarter. Along the way, television and stadium cameras caught a happy Samuel showing off a large 49ers necklace in celebration on the sidelines.

The necklace, which is reminiscent of the turnover chain popularized by the football team at the University of Miami, surfaced over the past three weeks, with cornerback Josh Norman being the first to put it on after a turnover in a previous game, according to safety Jimmie Ward. Monday night was Samuel's turn, which came after he turned Garoppolo's pass into a game-sealing play.

"The necklace came from JV [49ers cornerback Jason Verrett]," Samuel told reporters after the game. "He got it for the team whenever you make a play, you put it on. So that's where that came from. For the fourth-down play, we called an in-breaking route and then just popped it wide open. As you can see, Jimmy made the right read and it turned into a touchdown."

Chances are Monday night won't be the last time Samuel puts on that necklace. Samuel showed why 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is always looking for ways to get the ball in his hands, and why Shanahan has grown to trust him at running back as well as wide receiver.

"Just getting to know him and him practicing with the guys," Shanahan said after the game. "You've got an idea when you draft people. But we didn't know how good he was at that stuff. That was the stuff we know we saw with [Former 49ers WR Jalen] Hurd, that was one reason to take him, just with his running back experience, being able to see it all. Deebo, you didn't totally know. But you got to see him run screens and how he physically was. It was how he finished screens that we liked so much. He really brought it to people when there was nowhere to go and just having him, you see what he's good at and you try to put players in position to help them."

Samuel told reporters Monday he's played running back throughout his career, but it took him a while to learn what to do at the position in Shanahan's offense. He looked quite comfortable in the role on Monday night.

"You kind of know what running plays you're going to get, so it's not too much stress on learning all the running back positions," Samuel said. "At first, it was kind of hard but as time goes it just gets easier and easier."

Garoppolo told reporters after the game he hasn't played with anyone quite like Samuel, given everything he brings to the game from a physical and mental perspective.

"Honestly, I haven't," Garoppolo said. "I haven't seen many of them in the NFL either. I mean, it's a unique talent, just durability of the guy, the route running ability, the mental capacity, just to keep everything in his head that he has to do on a week-to-week basis. It's really impressive. I mean, the dude can play multiple positions and he's earned everything he's gotten."

Monday night's win was easily the biggest of the season for the 49ers, who now stand a half-game out of a wild card spot at 4-5. Samuel will undoubtedly be one of the team's most important factors the rest of the way if they want to turn their momentum into a playoff run.

"Find someone that plays wide receiver, fullback and running back," tight end George Kittle said Monday night. "Maybe [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.]. That might be the closest comparison. There's not a lot of comps. I mean, especially in the way that [head] coach [Kyle] Shanahan and our offensive staff makes plays for him. Line him up at running back, toss him the ball. Just the physicality that he plays with every single snap. And he can score every single play. And when you have a guy like that, it's pretty amazing."

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