49ers’ McCaffrey, Samuel break loose in playoff win over Seattle
From the day Christian McCaffrey arrived in October, the name Deebo Samuel has been a virtual buzzword.
Coaches and players rarely mention one without the other. All the matchup nightmares created by McCaffrey have been duplicated by Samuel. They can both line up in the backfield, play receiver and are interchangeable pieces.
Except it hasn’t really been, at least not until Saturday, when the 49ers upset the Seattle Seahawks with a 41-23 win at Levi’s Stadium on the strength of a 25-6 second half run by the McCaffrey-Samuel duo. in full glory.
Both are so good that it seemed inevitable that they would both leave on the same day at some point. What the 49ers never imagined was getting an assist from Seattle safety Jonathan Abram, the former offensive lineman who ignited Samuel and the 49ers in the third quarter with some questionable judgment.
That happened with the 49ers trailing 17-16 after quarterback Brock Purdy hit Samuel for an 18-yard completion on third-and-7 at the Seattle 16. At the end of the play, Abram grabbed Samuel’s leg and turned him over, but received no flag.
It’s the kind of play Abram was known for with the Raiders — he was released by Las Vegas and Green Bay before signing with Seattle — taking the aggression to the edge and crossing the line. It infuriated coach Kyle Shanahan, Samuel and the 49ers.
“I lost my mind a little bit about it,” Shanahan said. “But I was really worried. It looked pretty bad. It pissed off our team and you could feel our team reacting to that. I wish we were like that from the first game, but sometimes things like that motivate the guys and it’s nice to see us come together.”
Jonathan Abram puts some hot sauce on Deebo Samual’s ankle #SEAvsSF #Seahawksvs49ers#Seahawks #FTTB pic.twitter.com/jzDtpx7l6o
— ᑭᖇO ᖴOOTᗷᗩᒪᒪ ᒍOᑌᖇᑎᗩᒪ 🏈 (@NFL_Journal) January 14, 2023
Samuel, who had already shown the kind of explosiveness that came so often a year ago, initially thought Seattle linebacker Mike Jackson was the culprit and stayed on the field to contain his temper.
San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel (19) bends over in pain after his ankle is cut by Seattle Seahawk’s Jonathan Abram in the second half of their NFC playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
By the time Samuel got to his feet, the 49ers were on the field en masse. The officials restored order and no penalty flags were thrown. But Abram had made a big mistake.
Samuel called him the definition of “IGYB” or “I Got Your Back” and that “he took our team up a notch and we just went out there and made plays.”
Linebacker Fred Warner said, “I don’t know what he was trying to get at by doing that,” and running back Nick Bosa said, “Don’t hit the bear.”
Officials try to break up a scuffle between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers after Deebo Samuel has his ankle dropped by Seattle Seahawk’s Jonathan Abram in the second half of their NFC playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
But with the bear punted, the 49ers went on to complete a 75-yard, 13-play drive for a 23-17 lead and never trailed. They were collected with the help of two means of transport, a sack of clothes from Charles Omenihu found by Bosa and an interception from Deommodore Lenoir.
Samuel made a smash 74 yards down the sideline on a short pass from Purdy with a key block by Brandon Aiyuk for a 38-17 lead.
San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel (19) runs into the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of their NFC playoff game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 14 2023 The San Francisco 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 41-23. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Samuel finished with six receptions for 133 yards to go along with three rushes for 32 yards. McCaffrey, who had a 68-yard run in the first half to set up the 49’s first down and then caught a 3-yard pass from Purdy to end the drive, had 119 yards on 15 carries and 17 yards on two receptions.
In all, McCaffrey and Samuel combined for 26 touchdowns and 301 yards on a day when the 49ers offense racked up 505 yards of total offense.
It was the first time Shanahan had a chance to unleash the McCaffrey-Samuel combination in all its glory, largely because of injuries. The two played together in just six games after McCaffrey arrived via trade (Samuel missed four with an MCL strain) and scored in the same game just once — a 35-7 win over Tampa Bay on Dec. 11.
Brock Purdy (13) connects with Christian McCaffrey (23) on a 3-yard pass in the first quarter
If you’re a starting quarterback like Purdy, life is good. He would do well to have either player as a weapon, and now he has both with the 49ers advancing to the second round against an unspecified opponent.
To hear Purdy tell it, the Seahawks actually planned the CMC-Samuel combo pretty well.
“I mean, it’s hard for a defense to stop him when you have guys coming out of the backfield, going every which way and doing all the exotic things that we do,” Purdy said. “Credit to Seattle. They had a big plan. At the same time, when we got the ball, they made plays in space.
“It’s going to be a challenge going forward, guys are going to draw things up for Christian and Deebo, but I know once they win those one-on-ones, it’s tough on the defense.”
Like everyone else in the 49ers, Purdy felt some energy from the questionable play Abram made against Samuel.
“I mean, that’s our guy,” Purdy said. “He means a lot to the team, the juices, the jerks, all that stuff. He’s down, obviously, and the guy went on and you say, ‘Come on, let’s play clean here.’ We get into a physical game and all, but doing that is unnecessary.
“For our team to show some emotion and show Deebo we’ve got his back, I think we all had a right to be angry about that. It definitely gave us some juice, some momentum, and I feel like we capitalized on that.”
Abram is now in the rear view mirror for the 49ers, but the outlook is good for the 49ers moving forward with McCaffrey and Samuel together, helping to take the 49ers offense to the next level right at time for a Super Bowl run.