SANTA CLARA — George Kittle was in character after the 49ers’ 37-20 victory over the Washington Commanders on Saturday.
He was wearing a Santa hat, a crimson sweater with “cute” written on it, and was unfastened and cheerful as ordinary, entertaining the assembled press with the story of how he stole a landing from teammate Ray-Ray McCloud.
It got here after a 34-yard move to the submit from quarterback Brock Purdy, who thought he was throwing the ball to McCloud.
Keetl’s job was to cross the sphere, thereby opening up territory for McCloud. As an alternative, Kittle’s eyes grew massive and he turned grasping.
“Broad open area,” Kittle mentioned. “I am not going to run and conceal behind. . . When (McCloud) obtained over my shoulder I believed it was the safety making an attempt to get the ball and it truly scared me. Then he mentioned, “You stole my landing.” “
Everybody had snigger, which is commonplace process when Keetl is round. The landing gave the 49ers a 14-7 lead within the third quarter, and he added a 33-yard catch and ran a Purdy throw again to place the 49ers up 21-7.
It is a good signal for the 49ers that Kittle is someplace close to his bodily peak, or as shut as an NFL tight finish will be. He caught six passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, his second two-point sport in a row.
He delivers ache and ache moderately than receiving it, and it exhibits in his sport. It did not take lengthy for rookie quarterback Brock Purdy to comprehend that Kittle was a game-changer, simply as Kittle was for Jimmy Garoppolo or every other quarterback when he was wholesome.
“He makes my job simpler,” Purdy mentioned. “He wins matches between males. You give him ball, he’ll take off. George is extraordinarily explosive, greater than folks suppose. He does an important job after the catch and that is what I am pondering. I’m growing, however I do know that if I move the ball to George, it may be an explosive sport.
Kittle entered Saturday’s sport after throwing 4 for 93 yards in Seattle with two touchdowns. And whereas Kittle has had huge days and large video games, they do not usually come on the finish of the season. Few gamers work as arduous at sustaining their our bodies, however Kittle has been lower than one hundred pc lately because the season attracts to a detailed.
How does he really feel now?
“That is nice,” Kittle mentioned. “Coach Shanahan all the time says that throughout the yr you get callous, your physique will get used to the punches, you get used to the friction. However I did not need to take care of Achilles (final yr) or an occasional knee, I used to be very fortunate. In soccer, typically you need to be fortunate.”
Kittle got here out of coaching camp with a groin sprain that price him his first two video games of the season, and when he returned to play he did not appear like the identical participant who had 1,377 consecutive dashing yards in 2018 and 2018. 1053 in 2019, permitting him to money in on a five-year, $75 million contract extension.
Quick ahead to the final two weeks and Kittle seems to be pretty much as good as ever.
“He began the yr a little bit shabby and it took him some time to get again and be in soccer form,” coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned. “However proper now he is nice within the run and move sport and it is nice that he is getting some balls, even the one he took from Ray.”
After the sport, Kittle talked about how the 49ers have been drawing power from rim rusher Nick Boza, who added two extra sacks and blew a two-point conversion with one other towards Washington.
The identical will be mentioned about Kittle. He performs with an enthusiasm that his teammates discover infectious.
— San Francisco 49ers — x (@49ers) December 24, 2022
“Kittle is a superb chief. The boys huddle round him. He brings super power daily,” mentioned defenseman Arik Armstead. “He is humorous. He is a nerd at occasions, which makes him lots of enjoyable, and units the tone week after week, even when it would not present up on the stat sheet. He’s presence.”
Purdy, whose locker is nearly in the identical nook as Kittle within the 49ers locker room, depends on the tight finish to maintain issues from getting too severe.
“Typically if we’re nervous, he is the man that makes you smile, so I am very fortunate to have him within the dressing room. It brings nice power and good temper.”
Kittle almost scored a 3rd landing within the fourth quarter, however caught a low move from Purdy on the 1-yard line. This created the quick music of Christian McCaffrey. Kittle, who’s gone to Iowa, would not hesitate to tease Purdy about leaving for the rival state of Iowa.
“I will say if he hadn’t gone to Iowa I believe it will have taken me to the final sport and that will have been a landing,” Kittle mentioned, “however I will let that slip as a result of it is Christmas. ”