The primary storyline for the upcoming season finale in Los Angeles is simple and obvious. If the 49ers win, they are in the playoffs, and if they don’t, they become reliant on the Atlanta Falcons beating the New Orleans Saints to get them in. This is assuredly the main concern for everyone involved, as statistics will take a clear backseat to the final tally on the scoreboard this week.
Having said that, there is an extraordinary milestone on the line in this game. If George Kittle records 35 receiving yards on Sunday, he will pass Hall Of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr. for the second-most receiving yards by a tight end in their first five seasons in NFL history.
If Kittle’s track record against the Rams is any indication of what to expect in this performance, he should be able to surpass Winslow and reach this prestigious achievement.
Kittle has recorded at least five receptions in six consecutive matchups with the Rams and has gone over 50 receiving yards in seven straight contests as well. The task of containing Kittle is difficult for any defense in the league, but it becomes even more strenuous for a Rams defense that isn’t particularly strong at the linebacker and safety spots.
The 49ers' uncertainty at the quarterback position makes the recent success a bit less reliable as a predictor of what may happen in this game, but I believe the matchup heavily favors Kittle seeing a large target share, regardless of who is under center in this game. Of course, it goes without saying that if Garoppolo is able to go, the odds of this milestone being reached are much more favorable due simply to the on-field connection and chemistry he and Kittle have cultivated over the years.
I’m sure that Kittle would be the first person to tell you that heading into this game, he doesn’t care about this milestone and that winning and punching a ticket to the playoffs is the only thing he is concerned with. And I don’t doubt for a second that he would mean every word of it if he said that, and that mentality is part of what makes watching him play this sport so fun.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves the game of football as much as Kittle does, and his everlasting exuberance elicits joy in a way that few athletes are capable of. So keep an eye on the People’s Tight End in this game because he has a chance to do something truly special and etch his name in the record books as he wraps up a half-decade of regular season football in the NFL.