49ers Wide Receivers
Players: Deebo Samuel, Trent Sherfield, Mohammad Sanu, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings
The 49ers receivers dealt with no major drops, and the only minor drop they had was on a pass behind Deebo Samuel in tight coverage on third down. Should he have caught that? Probably. Could it have been a better ball? Absolutely. For a team absolutely struggling with grabbing the football, that was perhaps the biggest benefit of the game.
Beyond that, the Niners wide receivers played an exceptionally strong game. The 300 yards plus in the air for Jimmy Garoppolo happened in large part because the receivers were able to catch and run with the football, and even when they lost momentum, they made several positive plays.
The biggest standout was Samuel, who finished with 189 yards on nine receptions, most of which coming from a big 79-yard touchdown grab. For a player whose ability down the field had been questioned and not showcased, it was a great performance. Both Trent Sherfield and Mohammad Sanu hauled in their targets with strong hands, with Sherfield scoring a touchdown from Trey Lance. Jauan Jennings didn’t get any passing love, but his blocking was a key part of Elijah Mitchell’s touchdown run.
The two biggest issues for this game for the receivers were Brandon Aiyuk and Samuel’s fumble with under two minutes to go in the game. Samuel’s fumble was inexcusable; it was a fantastic play by Garoppolo to find him the ball in space, and Deebo had gained the first down, but he simply forgot to keep the ball secured. Aiyuk didn’t receive a target in the game; Coach Shanahan said it was the result of the team managing Aiyuk’s hamstring. However, given that Aiyuk did run routes and received a punt, it seems to have also been a message to a second-year receiver that Kyle Shanahan wanted to light a fire under. His comments (h/t NBC Sports) seemed to indicate Sherfield had earned a chance to be one of the two starting receivers, and while it’s not clear how Aiyuk’s future involvement will change, it’s something to keep an eye out.
For the 49ers, though, their receivers were a key part of their offensive explosion.