SANTA CLARA -- After a challenging start to the season, Brandon Aiyuk re-emerged as a key playmaker in the 49ers' 31-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Through seven games, Aiyuk had only recorded 13 catches on 23 targets for 141 yards and one touchdown after leading the team in receiving in his rookie season.
Aiyuk's six catches, 89 yards and one touchdown in the loss to the Cardinals on Sunday was second only to 49ers tight end George Kittle, who had the same number of receptions but recorded 12 more yards.
Aiyuk had struggled being consistent at practice until he and Kyle Shanahan “had some words” during the bye week. The young receiver took the conversation to heart and has seen more targets in games and consequently more production.
Shanahan isn’t the only one who has noticed the improved focus of the young receiver. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel have remarked on Aiyuk’s new attitude and approach to the game and how it has affected his performance.
“Yeah, he's always where he needs to be, but he made some plays today,” Garoppolo said after the game. “The plays didn't really work out exactly how we planned. So there was a couple of broken plays and B was moving, getting to the right spot.
“I mean, his touchdown grab, that was a hell of a catch he had. So you know, I love where he's at right now. I love where he's going. He's a young guy who, he's on the upswing right now. And so you got to keep going with that and he'll keep making plays and I'll keep getting them the ball.”
One blemish on Aiyuk’s performance was a fumble he committed while making a second effort to gain more yards. After a 22-yard pass from Garoppolo early in the second quarter, the young receiver was down but not touched by a Cardinals defender. Once Aiyuk got back up and attempted to run further, Isaiah Simmons punched the ball out causing the fumble, which was recovered by Jordan Hicks.
The turnover stopped a six-play, 63-yard drive that likely would have at least ended with a field goal attempt by Robbie Gould, if not a touchdown. The 49ers will need to play much cleaner football if they want to have a chance to break their eight-game home losing streak next Monday when facing the Los Angeles Rams.