49ers’ Deebo Samuel honored for performance vs. Bears as Pro Bowl pitch grows

SANTA CLARA — Deebo Samuel is off to the most productive start ever by a 49ers’ wide receiver through seven games, and the spectacular list of predecessors carry surnames such as Rice, Clark, Owens.

Safe to say, the NFL is paying attention.

Samuel won his first NFC offensive player of the week honor Wednesday, having sparked the 49ers out of a four-game funk and to a 33-22 win33-22 win over the Chicago Bears. His 171 yards Sunday pushed his season total to 819.

That topped the seven-game starts of Jerry Rice (781 yards, 1986; 774 yards, 1989) and Dwight Clark (755, 1982) for the franchise record.

No cash prizes or plaques come with NFC weekly honors but it does signal that more recognition could come Samuel’s way if he keeps producing and the 49ers climb into playoff contention.

His massive workload isn’t coming without pains. A calf contusion kept him out of Wednesday’s practice for the second straight week, though he was in good spirits and chirped at teammates as he wrote a stationary bike on the side.

“It was hurting him the week before, and he played a lot and through a lot, and it felt worse after,” Shanahan said of Samuel’s calf.

The 49ers have not had a wide receiver make the Pro Bowl since 2003, when Terrell Owens earned a spot. Their last receiver to win NFC player of the week honors was Anquan Boldin for the 2013 opener.

Boldin is the 49ers’ last wide receiver with a 1,000-yard season (2013 and ’14). Tight end George Kittle produced 1,000-yard campaigns in 2018 and ’19.

So, Samuel is 181 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark heading into Sunday’s game in which the 49ers (3-4) host the Arizona Cardinals (7-1). He accounts for a NFL-high 46 percent of the 49ers’ receiving yards, 31.8 percent of their offensive yards.

His pace, however, is bound to slow, and it should for the sake of an offense that, 1.) welcomes tight end George Kittle back this week, 2.) has Brandon Aiyuk’s recent renaissance, and, 3.) wants more of its yards on the ground.

“You like to spread ball around, definitely,” Jimmy Garoppolo said. “Some of that stuff happens on the go, like on a broken play or he’s on the backside and they switch coverage. … It’s whatever it takes. If Deebo needs to get 99 percent of the yards, he’s willing to do it.”

Samuel’s 83-yard catch-and-run to the 1-yard line really is what sparked the 49ers’ comeback in Chicago. He also had a 50-yard grab just before halftime.

Shanahan stated the obvious in that Samuel means “a ton” to the offense, but that Sunday’s game was an all-around effort: “I didn’t expect Deebo to have such a big game versus Chicago, but the way the guys around him stepped it up, too, I thought it made things a lot easier just to allow that to happen naturally. And it was good on everybody’s part.”

Samuel opened that game with two drops before he even recorded a yard.

“It was just two minor drops that I know those are the plays I’m supposed to make,” Samuel said Sunday. “But you know how you start the game and you’re too hot, too hyped or whatever. Just had to settle in and get back to the game that we know we play.”

The only player with more receiving yards this season is the Los Angeles Rams’ Cooper Kupp (924), and he’s played one more game than Samuel.

Other NFC wide receivers among the leaders (and potential Pro Bowl and All-Pro candidates with Samuel (*2020 Pro Bowler):

3. *Packers’ Davante Adams (744 yards)

4. Bucs’ Chris Godwin (660 yards)

5. Panthers’ D.J. Moore (645 yards)

6. Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb (609 yards)

7. *Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf (580 yards)

8. Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett (579 yards)

9. Washington’s Terry McLaurin (573 yards)

10. *Vikings’ Justin Jefferson (563 yards)

11. Bucs’ Mike Evans (544 yards)

12. Cowboys’ Amari Cooper (495 yards)

13. *Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins (486 yards)

 

 

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