It took a few moments for 49ers rookie Ji’Ayir Brown to be able to celebrate the biggest moment of his young NFL career.
In the waning minutes of San Francisco’s 27-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Brown hauled in his first career interception on a critical third-and-6 inside San Francisco’s 10-yard line. Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield’s pass deflected into the end zone, and Brown dove to make the catch and secure the turnover.
But as he fell to the Levi’s Stadium grass, Brown had the wind knocked out of him. 49ers teammates circled around him to celebrate but patiently waited for Brown to rise.
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"What happened? Stay down, you're good, take your time," 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said to Brown, realizing the rookie had the wind knocked out of him. "You just won us the game, boy. You just won us the game."
Brown was filling in for safety Talanoa Hufanga, who sustained a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee earlier in the game. Brown was beat in coverage several times earlier in the game but rebounded to make two key plays -- making the stop on a previous fourth down and his game-clinching interception.
“I thought he did a hell of a job,” coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game.
San Francisco 49ers
With Hufanga sidelined for the rest of the year, Brown's role will only grow from here. And if Sunday is any indication, he appears to be more than ready.