The San Francisco 49ers are happy they escaped Saturday night with a 24-21 win over the Green Bay Packers to move on to the NFC Championship Game.
It was a game where the Niners needed a late-game touchdown run from Christian McCaffrey to pull ahead, and the defense came up clutch with an interception of Packers quarterback Jordan Love to ice it.
However, the absence of versatile 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel was palpable in this one after he suffered a left shoulder injury in the first quarter. While he was initially cleared to return, he was seen in street clothes on the sideline throughout the second half.
Now, the 49ers anxiously wait to see the results of multiple tests he underwent on Sunday.
What San Fran hopes is that Samuel didn’t suffer the same hairline fracture that kept him sidelined for two games during the regular season. Both of those games ended in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings on “Thursday Night Football” and the Cincinnati Bengals.
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Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he wasn’t sure about the severity of Samuel’s injury, though ESPN reported Samuel having a chance to play next Sunday against the winner of the Detroit Lions-Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC divisional game on Sunday.
Samuel is a matchup nightmare for any defense he faces because he is one of the most elusive offensive weapons in the NFL, creating tons of yards after the catch. It’s why the 49ers also use him in the backfield on run plays and jet sweeps, allowing him to get some space to work his magic.
“When Deebo is in there, and you match him with Christian and switch them around and stuff like that, it makes our offense what I think is different than any other offense in the NFL,” tight end George Kittle, who scored a touchdown to help beat the Packers, said via ESPN.
“So, am I concerned about him not playing next week? Yeah, we’re a different team without Deebo.”
Second-year quarterback Brock Purdy still has players to work with, like McCaffrey, Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings. But Samuel’s presence, like Kittle said, opens things up because of the attention he requires.
Samuel’s tests will determine whether he can play in the game that the 49ers hope goes in their favor as they aim for a trip to Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII.
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