Hey diddle diddle, there goes George Kittle.
Rookie tight end Kittle went wild on the Denver defense Sunday afternoon, enjoying the greatest game in the history of the San Francisco 49ers tight ends, with 210 yards and a touchdown. It was also the third-most all-time by a tight end in NFL history. And the 49ers beat the Broncos — basically ending Denver’s season — 20-14.
And Kittle killed the Broncos – who haven’t been able to cover tight ends all season long – early and often.
His first huge play came in the first quarter, with Darian Stewart “covering” him but trailing the tight end by a few yards. Backup quarterback Nick Mullens found Kittle open and Stewart could never catch up. Kittle kept rumbling and Bradley Roby bounced off him like a football off an upright before Justin Simmons finally took him down at the 12 yard line.
That 45-yard play was only the beginning, though.
Once the 49ers saw they could go to Kittle, they did it on the very next drive; which only took one play. There was the tight end again, this time dragging across the entire field and finding himself completely, utterly wide open.
After catching the ball, Kittle turned it upfield and turned on the jets, running 85 yards to the end zone untouched. No. 85 went 85 yards to pay dirt.
With that massive play, the tight end ran his total up to 179 yards, Denver had a mere 39 yards, with nine minutes to go in the second half.
That touchdown wasn’t just an explosive play, it pushed the 49ers ahead 13-0.
And when San Francisco needed to move the ball the most – getting possession with less than a minute before halftime – Kittle had a 13-yard and an 18-yard reception to help push his team down the field where they’d end with another touchdown.
Thanks to Kittle, who had 210 yards in the first half alone, the Niners led 20-0 at the break and held onto all the momentum with the Broncos playoff lives on the line.
What made it even more atrocious was that San Francisco had very few playmakers outside of Kittle, and yet, Denver couldn’t even find him on the field.
But, again, the Broncos have been burned by tight ends all year long. So, it certainly wasn’t a surprise. Just more damning evidence that the team is in desperate need of leadership, both from the head coaching standpoint and specifically on the defensive end.
When it was all said and done, somehow, the 49ers didn’t go to Kittle again after his sensational first half. Still, his 210 total yards were the third-most ever in a single game, with Shannon Sharpe’s 214 yards ironically being No. 1 all-time in NFL history.
The Broncos tried to come back, bringing the game to 20-14, but fell short and their playoff hopes died with the loss, too. If they could have found a way to cover Kittle, they may have won the game and saved the season.
Instead, Denver’s now 6-7 and out of the playoffs for the third straight season.