The San Francisco 49ers trailed 17-16 to the Seattle Seahawks at halftime of Saturday's wild-card showdown. Facing a third-and-7 on the opening drive of the third quarter, Brock Purdy hit Deebo Samuel short over the middle. The dynamite receiver dashed through the Seahawks' secondary for a 21-yard gain to pick up a key first down.
At the end of the play, Seattle defensive back Johnathan Abram appeared to twist Samuel's leg after the tackle, but no flag was thrown. The wideout and the rest of the 49ers were incensed by the play.
"I think anger kind of took over," tight end George Kittle said. "I don't know why you'd -- first off, excuse my language -- why would you wanna piss off Deebo. If you're going to do that to him, you're just going to piss off Trent Williams, who's one of the scariest people on the football field. You're going to fire up our defense, gonna get our entire team fired up. I don't know what the point of that is. It should have been a flag, in my opinion, but it is what it is. They gave us another reason to flip the switch even higher. I think that's what we did. I don't think we need an excuse to flip that switch. That definitely influenced us to play a little bit angrier."
From there, the enraged Niners went on a 25-point streak to run away from Seattle in a 41-23 home victory.
"I stayed down a little because I almost lost my temper," Samuel said of the play. "You can see the definition of our team of "IGYB: I've got your back. ... At the end of the day, I felt like that turned up our team a notch. And as you can see, we went out there and made plays."
Added Samuel: "It hurt for sure. In my mind, I was about to lose it. I just got calm."
The Niners scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the second half and added a field goal on the fourth. San Francisco's offense rolled all night, gobbling up 505 yards and punting once. It would have been a blowout earlier if not for some red-zone struggles early in the contest.
But the Niners all pointed to Samuel's twisted leg as the moment that lit the fuse.
"I was worried he was hurt on it. I lost my mind a little bit on that," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I was real concerned that he was hurt on it. I didn't like how that looked. I thought it looked pretty bad, the intent of the play. So, I think that pissed a lot of people off. I think it pissed our team off. I think you could kind of feel our team react to that after. I wish we were like that from the first play always, but sometimes when some stuff motivates the guys, I think it's cool to see us rally together. I know Deebo was bothered, and it was cool he came back and answered."
Samuel led the Niners with 133 yards on six catches, including a 74-yard TD catch and run.