49er of Week 16: TE George Kittle

Dec 27, 2022, 12:13 PM | Updated: 12:47 pm
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after a play during the second half in the game...
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 24: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after a play during the second half in the game against the Washington Commanders at Levi's Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers’ Christmas Eve clash with the Washington Commanders was definitely a stocking stuffer for the Faithful, taking down their foes, 37-20. In a game filled with holiday cheer, none were merrier than tight end George Kittle.

Coming on strong the last two weeks, Kittle carved up the Commanders’ secondary Saturday afternoon. He finished with six catches on eight targets for 120 yards and two touchdowns. The funny part: George Kittle wasn’t supposed to catch the first TD.

A play originally designed for wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud III, Kittle decided to go to the open space in the middle instead of running a crossing route. McCloud, running a post pattern, beat the secondary only to find his teammate in the same spot in the end-zone. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy saw both men open, launching a perfect dime that Kittle caught from 33 yards out.

Despite having his score poached, Ray-Ray didn’t feel too bad about it, as the score was all that mattered in the end.

“I saw him a little early and said something like, ‘Dang, George, where you going?’ But he was a little closer than me, so I wasn’t going to out jump him to go get it and then the ball is all over the place. I’m a team first guy; you know what I’m saying? It’s not a me and win, it’s all about getting that ‘w’ at the end of the day,” McCloud explained postgame.

Meanwhile, Kittle didn’t feel remorseful about poaching the touchdown, feeling that previously negated scores were made up for on that play.

“Why, because I grinched it?” Kittle said with a big smile. “No, I think I’ve had five touchdowns taken away for penalties. So I’m gonna get them whenever they’re available.”

The Iowa State alum broke out again on the next series.

San Francisco capitalized on a turnover on downs with a play-action bootleg to the left two plays later. With Purdy rolling to his left, he found Kittle in the flat, racing past Commanders to find the endzone, putting the home team up 21-7 in the third quarter.

Kittle was rewarded for his efforts in the history books Saturday, becoming the first 49ers pass-catcher to score multiple TDs in bad-to-back contests since Terrell Owens in 2002. A player known for his versatility, the tight end broke his single season-high in Week 16 with eight TDs in 2022.

“Football is all about taking advantage of the opportunity,” George Kittle said postgame. “Our teams playing at a high level, we had a couple of mistakes on offense but I think we’re gonna clean those up. I think we’re better than last week when we were in Seattle, our defense continues to play at a high level. Some things we got to finish in the red zone. But no, it’s fun to do stuff like that, but I can’t do that without everybody else on the team.”

“I think he just, he makes my job easy, he wins the man-to-man matchups,” Purdy said about his tight end. “Obviously like his speed and everything, you just get the dude, the ball he’ll take off. Like George is extremely explosive, more than people think. And he does a great job with the yards after the catch. And so that’s where my mindset’s at is alright, whatever play we have drawn up, I’m going to go through my progression, but I know that if I get the ball to George, it could be an explosive.”

Making his fourth Pro Bowl earlier in the week, Kittle has 52 receptions for 713 yards and eight TDs in 2022. The former Hawkeye now has the fourth-most receiving yards by a TE in his first 6 seasons in NFL history, surpassing Kellen Winslow Sr. Saturday. 


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