Winner: SF 49ers Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk
There were many parts of the 49ers offense that shined on Sunday: the offensive line putting a nearly perfect sheet of blocking, tight end George Kittle cooking reigning Defensive Player of the Year in cornerback Stephon Gilmore on routes, wide receiver Deebo Samuel racking up the all-purpose yards, but two performances surely stood out.
The first was the astonishing play of running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (more on him later), who played incredibly before a high-ankle sprain in the second half put a painful end to a beautiful performance. Although he was a clear winner, that devastating injury puts a major damper on his afternoon in total.
So despite his heroics, Wilson simply can’t be a winner.
The second was the official emergence of rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk for the SF 49ers. He had played well throughout the season, flashing speed, athleticism, and a knack for the football. But against the Patriots, Aiyuk finished with six receptions for 115 yards, and unlike many of his touches earlier in the year which involved pseudo-runs or just flat out run plays, it was a pure receiver performance, and a fantastic one to boot.
That’s not to say Aiyuk’s earlier performances, when head coach Kyle Shanahan used him as a gadget player essentially, were unimpressive. But for a rookie receiver going up against a decently talented secondary to hit the century mark and do it with relative ease is very important.
And when the GOAT, Jerry Rice, says on 95.7 The Game (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area) that “when you got a player like [Aiyuk], you jut have to continue giving him opportunities,” it’s clear Aiyuk was a big winner from the Patriots demolition.