Brandon Aiyuk

Why Aiyuk's preseason blunder ended up being ‘genius' to Shanahan

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SANTA CLARA — Brandon Aiyuk played the first nine snaps of the 49ers’ preseason game Saturday night at Levi's Stadium.

Hours after the wide receiver retired to the sideline and slipped out of his uniform, he made an impact on the game.

His unique contribution ended up providing another fun element to make it about as entertaining as possible for a preseason game.

Quarterback Trey Lance and tight end Cameron Latu combined on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the 49ers to within two points, 20-18, against the Denver Broncos.

The 49ers’ bench erupted in celebration.

Multiple players left the 49ers’ sideline, but Aiyuk was the most obvious.

He skipped down the field toward the end zone and directly in front of the nearest official. Aiyuk was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct as a non-uniformed player entering the field.

Coach Kyle Shanahan had mixed emotions after learning of the penalty.

“I know they felt pretty stupid right when it happened,” Shanahan said. “I was pretty pissed. But it's the preseason, and they were excited. Their boy scored, so they're excited for them.”

The 49ers went for two points to tie the score. But instead of the ball being marked at the 2-yard line, the 15-yard penalty greatly increased the level of difficulty.

“That cost us an attempt at a two-point conversion,” Shanahan said. “We attempted it still, but it's not a high percentage from the 17.”

Lance’s pass attempt for wide receiver Willie Snead fell incomplete.

It all worked out for the 49ers, as the defense held the Broncos on a three-and-out, and Lance and Ronnie Bell quickly moved the 49ers into field-goal range for Jake Moody’s winning kick as time expired. The 49ers won 21-20

Afterward, Shanahan could joke about Aiyuk’s error.

“I told him in the locker room it was genius because it led to us being able to go for the win at the end,” Shanahan said. “So it worked out for them in the long run.”

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