Super Bowl

49ers' Samuel Has Become Big Part of Running Game

Physical rookie WR is a fine blocker and ball carrier, as well as a talented pass-catcher

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Deebo Samuel often has been compared to a running back.

The 49ers’ rookie wide receiver is a strong, physical player at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds, and once he gets the ball in his hands after a catch, he can gain yards with his speed and tackle-breaking running style.

It’s been said of Samuel that he "runs angry," punishing would-be tacklers by running through them, but he’s dismissed that description, saying he just wants to score every time he makes a catch.

"I wouldn’t say angry," Samuel told a reporter in November. "It’s just the mentality that I have that one guy isn’t going to bring me down. And that’s always been my mentality since I’ve been playing the game."

The 49ers have been thrilled with Samuel, a second-round pick from South Carolina, who’s become a big part of the offense. And nowhere was that more on display than in last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers. Samuel is not only a prime target for Jimmy Garoppolo’s passes, but a key element of the running game as both a fine blocker out wide or as a ball carrier.

Samuel caught two passes for 46 yards against the Packers and picked up 43 yards on two carries on motion sweeps.

The sweeps have become a regular part of the 49ers’ ground attack. Samuel this season has carried 17 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns, an average gain of 12.2 yards. Twelve of those carries have come over the past seven games (including two in the playoffs).

Against the Packers, Samuel had both a run and catch for 30 or more yards, and on one catch bowled over a defender to pick up about 10 more. He made a key block, too, to allow running back Raheem Mostert to score one of his four touchdowns.

Samuel told reporters after the NFC Championship Game that he loved being a part of the Niners’ running game that was imposing its will on the Packers.

"I mean, I think our mentality is, 'If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'" Samuel said of the run-heavy play-calling. "I ain’t got no problem going out there and being scrappy with the defense and blocking for the running back. They do it for us when we have a pass thrown down."

Over the past two playoff games, the 49ers have 47 and 42 rushing attempts in wins over the Vikings and Packers. Samuel says he’s fine with taking the same approach in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We could feel the energy," Samuel said, after the NFC-clinching game at Levi’s Stadium.

The Niners now are getting ready for the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. (Bay Area time) on Sunday, Feb. 2.

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