Zero Fear: How Kittle is Setting Records and Pushing the 49ers to the Playoffs
Image Credit: Nhat Meyer/Bay Area News Group
If Sunday’s overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals taught us one thing, it’s that George Kittle is still a very, very bad man. San Francisco’s do-everything superstar flashed the dominant skill set that led to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dubbing him “The People’s Tight End.” In his fifth NFL season, the former Iowa Hawkeye is once again lining up and knocking down records.
Breaking records is just what George Kittle does. In 2018, Kittle went berserk. In Week 14, he threatened the single-game NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end in the first half. Kittle needed just two quarters to post seven receptions and 210 yards. Although he ended the game five yards shy of the NFL record, he set a new benchmark for the 49ers franchise. Three weeks later, Kittle broke the NFL single-season record for most receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. He did so in storybook fashion with a nine reception, 149-yard game highlighted by a 43-yard catch-and-run touchdown to etch his name in the record books. A year later, Kittle racked up 1,053 receiving yards, marking the first time a 49ers tight end recorded back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons.
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After being underutilized for much of the 2021 season, Kittle has carried the 49ers offense the last two weeks. In Week 13, he amassed nine receptions for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Kittle surpassed his Week 13 effort with 13 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown on the road against the Bengals. In doing so, Kittle became the first tight end in NFL history to record 150 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in consecutive games.
Image Credit: San Francisco 49ers
Kittle’s heroic performance led to another accolade: the Week 14 NFC Player of the Week. It’s hard to believe this is the first time No. 85 has received the honor. It’s even more incredible that Kittle is the first 49ers tight end to ever win the award.
Image Credit: Meg Williams/San Francisco 49ers
Other tight ends (looking at you, Travis Kelce) may get more publicity and have flashier stats. No one does everything as well as George Kittle. The 49ers’ rushing attack dipped noticeably while Kittle was on injured reserve. Since his return, Kyle Shanahan has relied on his starting tight end to hide deficiencies in the offensive line, using Kittle as an extra lineman and a lead blocker. With the 49ers finding their groove, Kittle has once again surfaced as an explosive playmaker in the passing game. San Francisco has reaped the benefits of Kittle’s resurgence. His presence has expanded Kyle Shanahan’s play sheet and given Jimmy Garoppolo the security blanket every quarterback desires. Leave no doubt, George Kittle is the cornerstone of the 49ers’ offense. With Kittle in peak form, defensive coordinators could be looking for solutions deep into the playoffs.
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