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Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

Deebo Samuel: 49ers haven’t reached their full potential

Dec 19, 2023 at 12:02 PM

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While the San Francisco 49ers defense struggled to contain the Arizona Cardinals' rushing attack on Sunday, the team's offense was firing on all cylinders. Running back Christian McCaffrey amassed 187 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns, while quarterback Brock Purdy earned a passer rating of 135.3, marking his fifth time with a rating of at least 122.1 in the past six games.

With the convincing 45-29 victory in Week 15, the 49ers secured the NFC West title, ensuring their third consecutive playoff appearance and the fourth time in five years. Although the last two postseason runs concluded at the NFC Championship Game, Deebo Samuel and his teammates are determined to overcome this hurdle and return to the Super Bowl.

"We always been right at the door, and what is it going to take for us to get over that hump?" Samuel told Kay Adams on Tuesday morning. "And we always had that taste in our mouth, like, 'Bro, what is it? What is it?' And as we continue to stack these days, stack these games, stack these wins, we still not playing to our best potential and still leaving stuff out there on the field."

Samuel wasn't referring to the defense's struggles against the Cardinals. Instead, he was addressing his side of the football, even though the offense looked like a well-oiled machine.

"And that's things that neither you know or people out there know," Samuel continued. "It's just like within the building, like things that we know we have to work on. Just little things of one block here would spring Christian free probably like three, four more times. Or a block here would have got [QB] Brock [Purdy] a little bit more time in the pocket to throw another ball. It's just like little things like that."

That doesn't mean the 49ers didn't take a moment to savor the victory, their sixth straight. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is quick to praise the effort, but when it comes time to review the film, the perfectionist doesn't hesitate to point out areas that can be improved.

"Kyle is definitely going to celebrate the win," Samuel said. "But at the end of the day, after celebrating, after he's given us a speech along the lines of how good we played ... he still lets us know there's things that still need to be worked on. But we're going to enjoy the win, and when we go and watch tape, we'll see and find out what he's been talking about."

The 49ers might have to play a near-perfect game on Christmas night when they host the team atop the AFC playoff standings, the Baltimore Ravens. Many are already billing the matchup as a potential Super Bowl preview, with each team looking like the best of their respective conferences.

When asked if 49ers-Ravens is a Super Bowl preview, Samuel responded, "I have no idea. We just have to go out there and see."

Inside the 49ers locker room, it's just the next opponent on the schedule. However, a victory would bring them a step closer to securing home-field advantage in the playoffs. Whichever team emerges with the win will likely be the Super Bowl favorite going forward.
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