CMC-Deebo attack in full effect for 49ers and it’s too much for Seahawks and Jonathan Abram

Since the day Christian McCaffrey arrived in October, the name Deebo Samuel has been a virtual echo.

Coaches and players rarely mention one without the other. All the matchup nightmares created by McCaffrey are duplicated by Samuel. They can both line up in the backfield, play as receivers and are interchangeable parts.

Except it hasn’t truly been that way, at least not until Saturday, when the 49ers laid waste to the Seattle Seahawks with a 41-23 win at Levi’s Stadium on the strength of a 25-6 second half with the McCaffrey-Samuel pairing in full glory.

The two are so good it seemed inevitable they’d both go off on the same day at some point. What the 49ers never envisioned was getting an assist from Seattle safety Jonathan Abram, the former Raider who lit the fuse of both Samuel and the 49ers in the third quarter with some questionable judgement.

It happened with the 49ers trailing 17-16 after quarterback Brock Purdy hit Samuel for an 18-yard completion on third-and-7 to the Seattle 16. At the end of the play, Abram grabbed hold of Samuel’s leg and twisted it, but received no flag.

It’s the kind of play Abram was known for with the Raiders — he was released by both Las Vegas and Green Bay before signing with Seattle —  taking aggression to the edge and crossing the line. It enraged coach Kyle Shanahan, Samuel and the 49ers.

“I lost my mind a little bit on that,” Shanahan said. “But I was real concerned. It looked pretty bad. It pissed our team off and you can feel our team react to that. I wish we were like that from the first play, but sometimes stuff like that motivates the guys, and it’s cool to see us rally together.”

Jonathan Abram puts some hot sauce on Deebo Samual's ankle#SEAvsSF #Seahawksvs49ers#Seahawks #FTTB pic.twitter.com/jzDtpx7l6o

— ᑭᖇO ᖴOOTᗷᗩᒪᒪ ᒍOᑌᖇᑎᗩᒪ (@NFL_Journal) January 14, 2023

Samuel, who already had displayed the kind of explosiveness that came so often a year ago, initially thought Seattle defensive back Mike Jackson was the culprit and remained on the ground to curb his own temper.

San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel (19) bends over in pain after having his ankle yanked by Seattle Seahawk’s Jonathan Abram in the second half of their NFC wild-card playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

By the time Samuel rose to his feet, the 49ers were on the field en masse. The officials restored order and no penalty flags were thrown. But Abram had made a huge mistake.

Samuel called it the definition of “IGYB” or “I Got Your Back” and that “it turned our team up a notch and we just went out there and made plays.”

Linebacker Fred Warner said, “I don’t know what he was trying to achieve by doing that,” and edge rusher Nick Bosa said “Don’t poke the bear.”

Officials try to break up an argument between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers after Deebo Samuel has his ankle yanked by Seattle Seahawk’s Jonathan Abram in the second half of their NFC wild-card playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

But with the bear having been poked, the 49ers went on to complete a 75-yard, 13-play drive for a 23-17 lead and never trailed again. They piled on with the help of two takeaways, a strip sack by Charles Omenihu recovered by Bosa and an interception by Deommodore Lenoir.

Samuel delivered a soul-crushing 74-yard touchdown along the sideline on a short pass from Purdy with a key block from Brandon Aiyuk for a 38-17 lead.

San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel (19) runs into the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of their NFC wild-card playoff game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 41-23. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Samuel finished with six receptions for 133 yards to go along with three rushes for 32 yards. McCaffrey, who had a 68-yard run in the first half to set up the 49ers’ first touchdown and then caught a 3-yard pass from Purdy to finish the drive, had 119 yards on 15 carries and 17 yards on two receptions.

In all, McCaffrey and Samuel combined for 26 touches and 301 yards on a day when the 49ers offense piled up 505 yards in total offense.

It was the first time Shanahan had a chance to unleash the McCaffrey-Samuel combination in all its glory, mostly because of injuries. The two played together in just six games after McCaffrey’s arrival by trade (Samuel missed four with an MCL strain) and scored touchdowns in the same game just once — a 35-7 win over Tampa Bay on Dec. 11.

Brock Purdy (13) connect with Christian McCaffrey (23) on a 3-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

If you’re a rookie quarterback like Purdy, life is good. He’d do well to have either player as a weapon and now he’s got both with the 49ers moving into the second round against an undetermined opponent.

To hear Purdy tell it, the Seahawks actually schemed the CMC-Samuel combination pretty well.

“I mean, it’s hard for a defense to stop that when you’ve got guys coming out of the backfield, going every which way and doing all the exotic things we do,” Purdy said. “Credit to Seattle. They had a great plan. At the same time, when we did get them the ball, they made plays in space.

“It’s going to be a challenge moving forward, guys are going to be drawing up stuff for Christian and Deebo but I know once they win those one-on-one matchups its tough for defenses.”

Like everyone else on the 49ers, Purdy felt some energy from the questionable play Abram made against Samuel.

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“I mean, that’s our guy,” Purdy said. “He means so much to the team, the juice, the swagger, all that stuff. He’s down, obviously and the guy kept going and you’re like, `C’mon, let’s play clean here.’ We get into a physical game and everything, but to do that is unnecessary.

“For our team to show some emotions and show Deebo that we’ve got his back, I think we all had the right to be fired up about that. It definitely created some juice for us, some momentum, and I feel like we capitalized off it.”

Abram is now in the 49ers rear-view mirror, but the outlook is good for the 49ers going forward with McCaffrey and Samuel in tandem helping take the 49ers offense to another level just in time for a Super Bowl run.