SANTA CLARA — One play by Deebo Samuel epitomized the 49ers' mood in their 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.
The 49ers' first drive of the second half didn’t start off well. A fumbled exchange between quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and center Alex Mack was quickly recovered by Jeff Wilson Jr., avoiding a turnover.
On the ensuing play, Garoppolo completed a pass to George Kittle for 13 yards but it was what happened on the next play that juiced up the entire 49ers bench for the rest of the game.
Garoppolo threw a short pass to Samuel over the middle. In an attempt to gain more yards, the stout receiver ran into Falcons defensive backs Duron Harmon and A.J. Terrell with so much force that Terrell's mouthpiece’s became dislodged and flew in the air about six feet.
The 21-yard play set up Wilson’s 5-yard touchdown run and stretched the 49ers' lead to 14 points.
After the game, Samuel said he didn’t actually know what had occurred until well after the play was over.
“Not really until I saw the replay,” Samuel said. “And then everybody was going crazy so I knew something crazy kind of happened.”
Samuel, known for his bruising style of play, relishes the effect it can have on opposing players trying to tackle him in games.
“Not many DBs want to be a part of that, I’m not going to lie to you,” Samuel said. “It’s just the game that I’ve always played. Just to see my team riled up, it does give you a little confidence boost and a little energy and then you just go out there and try to do it again.”
The impact of Samuel’s play was felt by the 49ers' defense as well. Linebacker Fred Warner watched the play unfold from the sidelines and admitted it motivated him to go out and deliver the same physically he saw from his teammate.
“You see something like that on the sidelines, mouthpiece flying out, that is setting the tone,” Warmer said. “That’s what it’s about. You see it all across the board.”
Kittle, who is also known for his physical style of play, was on the field when Samuel delivered the hit and loved everything about it.
“That was sick,” Kittle said. “That was sick. We are going to be physical. When you have the opportunity with the ball in your hands to run through a guy’s face, it really shows them what type of guys they are playing against. Deebo hit that guy pretty dang hard and it took him a little bit to get up."