49ers vs. Cowboys: Predicting who winds up being Wild Card MVP

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Cowboys -3. 4:30 p.m. ET. 10-7. 42. Sunday, Jan. 16. 123. CBS. 12-5

The 49ers look to upset the Cowboys in the Wild Card round, and Deebo Samuel will have to play a vital role for the Niners to advance.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver offensive weapon Deebo Samuel had a banner year.

Everyone who watches football is aware of the season he had. He kept defenses on their toes and put up record-setting numbers in San Francisco.

So, is picking him for the unofficial most valuable player against the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round a no-brainer?

Probably. But just so it doesn’t look like I’m resting on my laurels, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Deebo Samuel had torrid 2021 for 49ers

The San Francisco wide receiver caught 77 receptions for a respectable 1,405 yards. He also averaged 18.2 yards per catch from the flanker position, that’s almost two first downs every time he caught the football.

That’s impressive work for any receiver in the league, but his talents stretched well beyond that. His eight rushing touchdowns is a franchise record by a receiver, and this team is no stranger to records at that position.

To accomplish that feat on a team that drafted Hall of Famers such as Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, it truly puts into perspective how impressive that record is.

Now let’s take a look at how Samuel can put up MVP numbers against Dallas.

49ers will get plenty of YAC from Deebo Samuel vs. Cowboys

Samuel is electric on the field, but it’s after the catch is when he becomes lethal to opposing defenses. In 17 games, he led the team with 779 yards after the catch.

That’s 55 percent of his overall yardage coming after he has possession of the football.

In fact, he’s second in the league to only Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp with one defining difference: Kupp needed 145 receptions to take first place.

If Samuel’s yards after the catch weren’t enough to impress you, then by all means, please consider his 387 yards after contact as a sufficient component towards his wow factor.

Here’s where it becomes relevant against the Cowboys.

Dallas defensive backs have allowed 1,051 yards after the catch. The Cowboys were 31st in the league in yards after the catch per reception (6.29), and the Niners offense led all NFL teams in yards after the catch per reception (6.62). The first time All-Pro was second to no one with a game-changing average of 10 yards per reception.

That’s the best total by a wide receiver in 15 seasons.

It would benefit quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense to get Samuel the ball and expose the Dallas secondary.

Deebo Samuel’s versatility is a boon for 49ers

When you excel at your position, opposing teams can study game film to identify your weakness. If you’re versatile, they can study film all day long and it won’t matter.

Samuel scored 15 touchdowns in the regular season.

He ran for a total of eight, caught six and threw a touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver Jauan Jennings in their Week 18 win over the NFC West champion Rams.

His versatility on the field adds a special element to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Samuel doesn’t have to play various positions, but having that option is an extremely lethal weapon. The “gun doesn’t always have to come out of the holster” to intimidate your opponent. The fact defenses have to be ready for his versatility at all times could be threat enough. Better yet, his reputation as a versatile player could provide distraction enough to expand the game of other members of the offense.

Moving Samuel around the field in various positions will not only keep the defense guessing it’ll help to rotate out other players and keeping them fresh as well.

Deebo Samuel’s elusive run game

The former South Carolina native has proven he can run the ball, but his numbers for the year prove that he can run it effectively.

The 49ers are a team who love to run the football, as evident by posting seventh in the league in yards per game. With an average of 6.2 yards per carry, Samuel should feast on the 31st-ranked defense. San Francisco is undefeated when Samuel runs the ball at least five times, and in terms of efficiency, it doesn’t get much better than that.

The Cowboys allowed 13 runs of 20 yards or more, tying them for third most in the league. Six of Samuel’s eight touchdown runs were greater than 10 yards from scrimmage.

The stage is set for Samuel to turn in an MVP performance. His dominance knows no bounds, and the fact that this is a postseason game doesn’t make it harder for him to have a runaway performance.

Playmakers will always find a way to move the chains, and Samuel is no exception.

Look for him to make more than a difference in Sunday’s game in Dallas.

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