The 49ers’ media members were all sitting in the media auditorium after San Francisco defeated Carolina, awaiting various players to give their post-game press conference. Tight end George Kittle walks into a thunderous roar from the fans waiting outside and has a giant smile on his face.
San Francisco’s former fifth-round pick is coming off one of his better games of the season, catching six passes for 86 yards and dominating multiple linebackers in the run-blocking game too.
But off the field, Kittle has developed into one of the faces of the 49ers’ franchise and one of the more likable players, thanks to his big personality and love for the game. On the field, the former Iowa star has developed into the most complete tight end in football, and here are a few plays from the game vs. Panthers that describes why.
The 49ers love to run screens for all their players — including Kittle. On this play, Kittle lines up like he’s blocking in a run play, but has a delayed escape and can gain 11 yards on such a simple play design.
One of #49ers' favorite plays to run is a screen to Kittle, where he looks like he's staying into block, but in reality he's waiting for the blockers to get down field.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
High percentage throw for Garoppolo to get the ball to a playmaker and it's a gain of 11 yards. pic.twitter.com/r6GQYhFKjJ
This next screen play is similar to the one above, but Kittle fakes the block and rolls out into the flat. Panthers’ linebacker Shaq Thompson gets caught in no man’s land, and all of a sudden, the 49ers have gained 12 yards on this play.
A very similar play to the one above, but this time Kittle just fakes the block and #Panthers' LB Shaq Thompson is in no man's territory.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
The other variation in this play is that Kittle comes across the formation, making it even tougher to cover him. Just like that, it's 12 yds pic.twitter.com/sMTfUq0Pvx
One of the better route-running tight ends in the NFL, Kittle can use a double move to evade Thompson, and he’s WIDE open in the middle of the field. One of the underrated parts of his game to take the hit from Panthers’ safety Tre Boston and hold on to the pass.
It's a double move and CAR's Thompson is lost in coverage, absolutely turned around. FWIW, Thompson was rated in the top-10 as a cover linebacker, per PFF and was exposed on this play.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
Kittle makes the 29-yard grab and holds on, despite a HUGE hit from S Tre Boston. pic.twitter.com/iNg0YAWwYq
Now, let’s switch to another facet of Kittle’s game — his dominant run blocking. In every successful run play, either Kittle or fullback Kyle Juszczyk (before he got hurt) was making a key block. In this play, Kittle takes out Panthers’ linebacker Mario Addison right out of the play — creating a huge lane for the 49ers’ running back.
The other facet to Kittle's game? His dominant blocking against LBs, DL, etc.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
Panthers' Mario Addison is one of the premier OLBs in the NFL and Kittle pushes him out of the way like a rag doll.
Takes him out and creates a cutback lane for the #49ers' RB to run through. pic.twitter.com/31h1WL20j5
Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly doesn’t get pushed around very often, but Kittle absolutely destroys him on this play, knocking him right out of his stance and knocking him to the ground.
Kittle absolutely DESTROYS #Panthers' Luke Kuechly on this play, shedding him like he's nobody. It opens up a HUGE lane for Coleman to run through on this play.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
Not often that Kuechly gets moved like this in the run game. pic.twitter.com/BKAkbHIJo3
49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan loves to motion his receivers and Kittle comes across the formation. The Panthers’ defense loses Kittle on this play, as he’s streaking across the middle of the field between the two safeties. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hits him in stride and boom it’s a huge gain on the play.
CAR's defense loses sight of Kittle, who comes across the formation on a motion. Next thing you know, Kittle's streaking across the field wide open, in between the two safeties.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
It's a big target for Garoppolo, who works his way across the field / his reads to find GK. pic.twitter.com/qdkHij9rBB
On this next play, Kittle gets up to the next level of the defense and holds off safety Eric Reid, which creates an opening for wideout Deebo Samuel to run right through it.
On Shanahan's best play-call and Samuel's 19-yard TD run, Kittle's block is one of the key things that opens this up.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2019
Kittle gets up to the next level and holds off Reid and creates a WIDE open hole for Samuel to run through.
Just amazing to watch how versatile Kittle's become. pic.twitter.com/S3Z4bzOTpT
Kittle’s dominant play didn’t start against the Panthers, but against one of the better linebacking cores in the NFL, the 49ers’ tight end had no issue imposing his will.