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'Fearless' rookie Deebo Samuel stepping up for 49ers

Down the stretch of Sunday's come-from-behind win over the Arizona Cardinals, you could feel the same thought emanating from every San Francisco 49ers fan: Throw the dang ball to Deebo.

And so it was done.

Rookie receiver Deebo Samuel has been the catalyst for the Niners' pass offense the past two weeks, going for 100-plus yards in back-to-back outings, with eight catches in each game. Sunday night against Green Bay, if Samuel surpasses the century mark once again, it would mark the first time since 1995 a 49ers player has gone for 100-plus receiving yards in three straight tilts, per NFL Research. The last man: Jerry Rice.

To accomplish the feat, Samuel will first have to overcome an injury. The rookie sat out practice Wednesday with a shoulder issue suffered in Sunday's victory. Coach Kyle Shanahan said the wideout could be among a bevy of game-time decisions.

When healthy, Samuel has been a menace for DBs, leading all rookies with 38 receptions for the season.

"He's fearless," teammate Richard Sherman said of the rookie, via The Associated Press. "Deebo Samuel is fearless. He'll run through any catch. You get some receivers running across the middle and they're looking for who's going to him them. Deebo is looking for who he's going to hit. That's a much different mentality than most people."

After an up-and-down start to his rookie campaign, which included battling through injury, the wideout has become Jimmy Garoppolo's go-to target with Emmanuel Sanders ailing. Samuel has improved his get-off from the line of scrimmage as the season progressed, allowing him to use his speed to break away from defensive backs. The rookie shows uncanny ability to squeeze through small gaps after the catch and isn't afraid of contact.

The toughness going over the middle has been huge for the 49ers the last few weeks.

"It is just a mentality I always played with growing up," Samuel said. "The mentality that not one guy is going to bring me down."

Samuel has been a YAC monster this season, averaging 7.1 yards after catch, per Next Gen Stats, tied for second-most among receivers with at least 30 receptions, behind only Cooper Kupp.

With Sanders and tight end George Kittle battling injuries, the 49ers desperately needed one of their gaggle of young receivers to step into the void. Samuel answered the call. The 9-1 Niners will need the rookie's hot streak to continue as they sprint toward January football for the first time since 2013.

"He's one of those guys you love to have in your foxhole," Garoppolo said of Samuel. "He just gets banged up out there, keeps coming back, doesn't even question it or anything. He's a fighter, man. You love having guys like that on your team."

With Samuel, Sanders and Kittle all battling injuries, the Niners will hope to have their pivotal pass catchers in a huge matchup against the Packers this Sunday night.

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