Now that the 49ers have gone from 12 losses last season to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, it's time for some reflection. This franchise essentially has pulled a complete 180-degree turn in one calendar year.
One year ago, the 49ers were in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl as San Francisco held the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kyle Shanahan was coaching the South squad in the Senior Bowl while general manager John Lynch had his eyes all over the talent of the showcase.
The 49ers embraced the mantra "Mobile to Miami," looking to go from the top of the draft to the top of the league. There in Mobile, they also coached Deebo Samuel all week and played against linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Samuel has turned into a dangerous weapon in Shanahan's offense while Greenlaw's game-saving tackle against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17 won the 49ers the NFC West and was a huge key to them reaching the Super Bowl.
Samuel, a receiver out of South Carolina, impressed teams all week in practice, putting himself high on the 49ers' draft big board.
And while the rookie has been one of the 49ers' top receivers this season, Shanahan has unleashed Samuel with a devastating run play in recent weeks. Since Week 14, San Francisco has given the ball to Samuel with this run play and it has resulted in 31 yards per carry.
The 49ers have used this play three times since Week 14 and have averaged 31 yards per play. pic.twitter.com/BBscAFnv43— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) January 21, 2020
This is Example A of Shanahan's brilliant blocking schemes. He uses a fake counter to running back Raheem Mostert while Samuel comes around for a handoff. The key is the lead blocker, though. In the first case, tight end George Kittle spins back around and clears the way for the rookie.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk takes Kittle's place in the next two instances and is a devastating blocker down field.
The first play shown came in Week 14 against the Saints with 4:22 left in the 49ers' 48-46 win. San Francisco led 42-40 at the time and Samuel ran down the left sideline for 31 yards. Two minutes later, a Robbie Gould field goal put the 49ers up by five points.
Samuel scored a key 30-yard touchdown on the run against the Seahawks and rushed for 32 yards on the play in the NFC Championship Game, two plays before a Mostert TD. The run call has gone for 93 yards on three carries.
Samuel finished the regular season with 159 yards rushing and three TDs while averaging 11.4 yards per carry. In two playoff games, he has three carries for 49 yards -- good for 16.3 yards per carry.
Over his four seasons at South Carolina, the stout 5-foot-11, 215-pound Samuel, ran the ball 25 times and scored seven touchdowns. He reached the end zone every 3.6 carries.
Shanahan has optimized Samuel's skill set throughout the receiver's first season as a pro. Including the playoffs, Samuel has totaled 1,098 yards in 17 games -- 890 receiving and 208 rushing. When the 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, Samuel certainly will be used in multiple ways to get the ball in the playmaker's hands.
What started in Mobile could end with the 49ers hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Miami.
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