Deebo Samuel earlier this season already became just the third player, and the first receiver, in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards and score at least five touchdowns as a receiver and five rushing touchdowns. With only four games left in the regular season, he also is closing in on more unique history.
The 49ers' Swiss Army knife on offense could become the first receiver to lead his team in rushing TDs since the 1970 NFL merger, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
In 12 games played, Samuel has six rushing touchdowns. That's one more than 49ers rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, who will miss his second straight game Sunday against the Atalanta Falcons with a concussion and knee injury. Mitchell could miss next Thursday's game against the Tennessee Titans, too.
Samuel's five receiving TDs also are just one behind tight end George Kittle's six.
With the 49ers being hit by injuries, the third-year pro has been used much more as a running back than a receiver in his last three games. Over that span, he only has three receptions for 49 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown as a receiver, but also has 22 carries for 182 yards and four touchdowns.
To 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, it's not about how the team gets the ball in Samuel's hands. It's just making sure they can find advantages with him against the defense.
"With Deebo, it’s game by game, how can we get him the ball?" McDaniel said Thursday. "Some games you'll see him in the backfield more, some games you won't. It all depends on the defense and how we're able to get him the ball and what advantages it presents for the rest of the offense.”
Sunday's Falcons vs. 49ers showdown at Levi's Stadium will be a battle against versatile offensive weapons in Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson of the Falcons. Patterson, who is listed as a running back after being a return specialist and receiver in the past, has 1,066 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns. Samuel has 1,268 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns.
How each player is best utilized could be all the difference.