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 free and cheerful as common, 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 publish from quarterback Brock Purdy, who thought he was throwing the ball to McCloud.
Keetl’s activity was to cross the sector, thereby opening up territory for McCloud. As an alternative, Kittle’s eyes grew massive and he grew to become grasping.
“Huge 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 attempting to get the ball and it truly scared me. Then he mentioned, “You stole my landing.” ”
Everybody had a very good snort, 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 recreation in a row.
He delivers ache and ache somewhat than receiving it, and it exhibits in his recreation. It did not take lengthy for rookie quarterback Brock Purdy to appreciate that Kittle was a game-changer, simply as Kittle was for Jimmy Garoppolo or another quarterback when he was wholesome.
“He makes my job simpler,” Purdy mentioned. “He wins matches between males. You give him a very good ball, he’ll take off. George is extraordinarily explosive, greater than folks suppose. He does an awesome job after the catch and that is what I am considering. I’m creating, however I do know that if I move the ball to George, it may be an explosive recreation.
Kittle entered Saturday’s recreation after throwing 4 for 93 yards in Seattle with two touchdowns. And whereas Kittle has had large days and large video games, they do not typically come on the finish of the season. Few gamers work as arduous at sustaining their our bodies, however Kittle has been lower than 100% in recent times because the season attracts to a detailed.
How does he really feel now?
“That is nice,” Kittle mentioned. “Coach Shanahan at all times 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 must cope with 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 seem like the identical participant who had 1,377 consecutive speeding 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 pretty much as good as ever.
“He began the yr a bit of 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 recreation 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 had been drawing energy 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 good chief. The boys huddle round him. He brings super vitality on daily basis,” mentioned defenseman Arik Armstead. “He is humorous. He is a nerd at instances, which makes him a variety of enjoyable, and units the tone week after week, even when it does not present up on the stat sheet. He’s presence.”
Purdy, whose locker is sort of in the identical nook as Kittle within the 49ers locker room, depends on the tight finish to maintain issues from getting too severe.
“Generally 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 vitality 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 brief music of Christian McCaffrey. Kittle, who’s gone to Iowa, does 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 could have taken me to the final recreation and that may have been a landing,” Kittle mentioned, “however I will let that slip as a result of it is Christmas. ”