Kyle Shanahan hails Brandon Aiyuk catch as one of biggest in 49ers history

Jan 31, 2024, 7:45 AM | Updated: 8:46 am

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a pass that was tipped by Kindle Vildor #29 of...

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Sometimes a bit of luck and good fortune is needed for great teams to win, Brandon Aiyuk and the 49ers know firsthand.

The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver came down with one of the biggest catches in NFC Championship history Sunday evening against the Detroit Lions.

Down 24-10 at the 6:29 mark of the third quarter, quarterback Brock Purdy uncorked a bomb down the middle of the field to Aiyuk. The WR had one-on-coverage from Lions cornerback Kendall Vildor. Purdy’s pass was a bit hot, however, bypassing Aiyuk slightly to bounce off Vildor’s helmet. The ball hung in the air for a moment, allowing Aiyuk to stretch out for the catch at the last second.

Down at Detroit’s four-yard-line, SF found paydirt, via a Brandon Aiyuk touchdown pass a few plays later to make it a one-score game.

The 49ers would go on to put up 17 more points, punching their ticket to Super Bowl LVIII. And it couldn’t have happened without one of the biggest catches in recent 49ers history.

“I think it could. We have to finish the year out, but that was amazing about the catch,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “I didn’t think he was going to ever recover. He seemed like he was yelling at me the whole time to challenge it because he just knew that he scored, but I was told he didn’t… I think they ended up touching him, but he ended up scoring three plays later. So it was awesome.”

The 49ers struggled to keep pace with the visiting Lions in the first half, falling behind 24-7 at halftime.

Shanahan and Co. knew they needed to get their act together in a hurry, needing a few sparks to jumpstart the system. That play by Aiyuk was the second of three breaks to go the 49ers way, with the catalyst for the comeback coming on the very next series.

Lions’ running back Jahmyr Gibbs puts the ball on the turf on the next possession, with San Francisco recovering. Four plays later, the 49ers tied up the contest at 24 all.

Sometimes a play is both important for statistical and emotional momentum in a game. Levi’s Stadium erupted after that short-while sequence, sensing the tides had changed.

Aiyuk’s play may not have scored (then), but it helped kick-start the push that won the 49ers the game.

Just like in 49ers teams from the past, he came up big when it mattered most.

“It was as big of a play. BA made two huge plays on third down last week with two low throws that probably would not have been able to win without those two plays,” Shanahan explained. “When we were down in this game and it seemed like they were running away with it early Brock made an off-schedule throw and BA almost came down with another low catch and missed it. That was a big one.

“For him to come back and completely redeem himself and even more with one of the best catches I’ve ever seen in the biggest moment. We will all be hugely grateful for our whole lives.”

His own teammates on the field were astonished he came down with the ball. Not that they didn’t believe he could make the play, more so because of the circumstances around it.

“I saw the [penalty] flag go up for sure. Then I heard the whole stadium erupt. I see B.A. curled up around the ball. ‘Oh, my gosh, he caught that,'” Purdy stated. “After that, we’re all jogging down. We’re all trying to figure out if he scored or not, got touched. When I saw him catch that, I was like ‘that’s insane.'”

But as previously mentioned: Purdy knew that if he got the ball to BA, he would make a play.

“At the end of the day, like I said, I was just trying to give him an [opportunity], man. Huge play, one on one, we need a play, explosive. Here is one of our best receivers to go down and make a clutch play for us.”

After the game, Brandon Aiyuk spoke with FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews. The Rocklin native relished in the surreal moment of going to the Super Bowl. And when asked about the catch, he mentioned that he had a good omen about the game in front of them that afternoon.

“Before the game, a ladybug landed on my shoe and ya’ll know what that means… Just great luck, God was with us today, great win, Bang Bang Niner gang. It’s crazy.

Key dates for Brandon Aiyuk and the San Francisco 49ers

  • Sunday, Feb. 11th – Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas
  • Tuesday, Feb. 20th – Teams can begin franchising players until Tuesday, March 5th
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27 – NFL Combine begins

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