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George Kittle named to PFF’s “All-Clutch” team”

Kittle was the only 49er on the hypothetical team

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San Francisco 49ers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Pro Football Focus put together their first and second team “All-Clutch team” and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle was unsurprisingly the tight end:


Second Team: Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans

Nothing changed for Kittle when things were tight late in the game. He was still the best player at the tight end position after the catch (position-high 113 yards after the catch and 8.7 yards after the catch per reception) and a nuisance to bring down in the open field (four missed tackles forced). As good as he was as a receiver, Kittle was equally as effective as a blocker in the run game. His run-blocking grade in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games ranked second at the position among qualifiers — a throwback when it comes to a tight end position that has shifted more towards big slot receivers in recent years.

When the 49ers needed a play, Kittle came through for the offense. There is no better example than the fourth quarter of the New Orleans Saints game, where Kittle took a short crossing route and turned it into one of the highlights of the season to help secure a victory for the Niners.

I’m more curious about who was omitted on the 49ers. Kittle was an easy option. In a year where the 49ers defense was historically good against the pass and getting after the quarterback, it was surprising that they weren’t represented on defense. PFF defined clutch as how well a player graded in one-score games during the fourth quarter and overtime. Were the Niners penalized due to not playing in close situations? If you include the playoffs, 10 of San Francisco’s games last season were won by more than one possession. That may explain why players like Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw weren’t listed.

When the games were close, those two always seemed to save the day. If blowouts were the reason we only see one 49er on this list, then hopefully there are zero next year. Keep the blowouts coming and the “gray hair games” to a minimum.