The San Francisco 49ers pulled out their third win of the season today – a day that was difficult, as Tony York, son of John and Denise York and brother of Jed York, passed away a couple days ago.
“This game was definitely for him,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “Getting to know the Yorks the last two years, the one thing that was so apparent to me about Tony…he was the biggest Niners fan out of any of them and really out of anyone I’ve been around since I’ve been in San Fran. Yeah, he is an owner, but just the true fan he was for the Niners always was so fun to watch. That’s what was so cool about him. For us to have a win today with what happened to him yesterday, it means a ton.”
With the Denver Broncos coming to Levi’s Stadium on a hot streak and fighting for a Wild Card spot, the 49ers pulled out the 20-14 win on the back of George Kittle, whose 210 yards (all in the first half) pushed him over 1000 for the season, which is a first for 49ers’ tight end.
Kittle was four yards short of tying Shannon Sharpe’s record for yards by a tight end in a single game, but Kittle had no yards in the second half, so it was not to be this week.
“Four yards,” Kittle said. “Halfway through the fourth quarter someone told me that. I was like, ‘Oh really, that would be fun.’ Next time.” Kittle added that Shanahan apologized to him twice for not being able to get him the ball.
“We won,” Kittle said. “That’s about all that matters.”
One of the things about Kittle that can be surprising is his speed, which he says comes from his mom’s side of the family.
“The thing that he’s doing better, that I can say he’s done better than any tight end I’ve ever had, is what he’s doing after the catch,” Shanahan said. “He does a good job beating man coverage and does a good job in his routes and does a great job blocking. But, when that ball is in the air, the play is just starting. He’s trying to catch it and he runs angry and he runs confidently that he expects to score on every look. I think that’s why it’s been easier to get him the yards he has.”
He got 85 of them for a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Nick Mullens, and it was a thing of beauty.
“We had a clear-out on the high cross, and George flashed in my eyes when I came off the play-action fake,” said Mullens . “George, like I’ve said so many times, he’s sneaky athletic. Caught it and ran. Used his speed that we all know he has, and it’s a touchdown for everybody. George had one heck of a day. Four yards short of the record, I’ve been told. You can blame that on me, I guess. It would’ve been really cool to get him that record. But, yeah, George balled out and it was a great play.”
His skills are not lost on his teammates on the other side of the ball.
“He’s dynamic,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “George Kittle is a really dynamic player. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how athletic he is. It’s very similar to [TE Travis] Kelce out in Kansas City with how slippery he is. His lateral movement is deceptive. He has a ton of speed. Maybe they just ran the ball a lot more in college and didn’t give him an opportunity, but he’s just really way more athletic than people understand.”