Offensively, quarterback Brock Purdy strung together yet another efficient performance, throwing for 252 yards and four touchdowns on 17/24 passing, while the defense forced four turnovers in their best game yet this year.
However, the star of the game was tight end George Kittle, who caught three passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns in what was easily his biggest performance of the year.
It’s been an abnormal year for Kittle statistically, as the tight end has gone for 30 or fewer receiving yards in three of the team’s five outings, while catching more than three passes just once this season.
Instead, the 49ers have valued his blocking ability, as usual, in the run game, while utilizing the tight end to open up different avenues in the passing game.
How has the tight end balanced the inconsistencies in statistical output?
It all starts with a lack of ego, according to quarterback Brock Purdy, which has become a norm throughout the team as the 49ers are looking to be more versatile with their weapons, spreading the ball out to all of their options at a high rate, rather than honing in on one or two.
“Like we said before, this team doesn’t have any ego, everyone wants to win,” Purdy said after the win. “I feel like everyone knows that they’re good and so it’s going to be just a matter of time with their game. This game, [49ers TE] George [Kittle] had the touchdowns, he had opportunities, but still, [49ers WR] Deebo [Samuel], B.A., [49ers RB] Christian [McCaffrey], everyone’s able to contribute, [49ers WR Jauan Jennings] J.J.”
“Their time comes, but at the end of the day, we put winning first. That’s what we want to do. There’s no selfish times where guys are coming up to me saying, ‘hey man, I’m, I’m open’ or ‘you’ve got to throw it to me.’ I’m very lucky and fortunate for that. We’ll just keep it rolling.”
The tight end acknowledged his desire to see the ball in his hands, but understands how the offense works with the number of talented players around him and noted that the main objective is being accomplished with how the 49ers are playing at the moment.
“I like the ball in my hands,” Kittle said on the Mac and Murph Show this week. “I love running in space. But we’re playing at a really high level right now. Everybody’s doing everything they can to contribute, whether it’s in the run game, whether it’s in the pass game.”
“And at the end of the day, as a football player, as a tight end, I can only control what I can control, and so I’m going to go out there every single play, and if they want me to run a route that gets Deebo open, I’m going to run the hell out of that route. If I need to do gap scheme, and I’m going to seal the block down there, I’m going to move a four technique with Trent Williams, and we’re going to hit the hell out of the mike linebacker on the other side, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
“So then when you turn on that tape, you’re going to be like, holy cow, that guy’s playing some crazy football right now. That’s all I can focus on.”
At the end of the day, regardless of the stat sheet, Kittle’s goal is to put the best possible play on film, which ultimately helps the team achieve their main objective.
“And that’s what my goal is, just to play to the best of my ability. And I just know that this team is very special. We have a lot of talent on it, and we’re all going to have good games,” Kittle said. “We’re all going to have games where we might not be featured as much, and hopefully we figure out an algorithm or a way to get everybody involved in every single game, and we’ll get to that. Not worried about that at all. But this team is playing at a high level.”
Kittle noted the unselfish nature of the locker room as well, which doesn't only apply to him, as a reason for the team’s success.
“I don’t think anyone really cares so much about individualistic [stats]. You know, guys want to go Pro Bowl, guys want to do all Pro stuff, and you’re thinking for your career.”
“But at the end of the day, the most important thing is winning. And we’re winning right now, and we’re playing at a high level. I think everyone’s very okay with the touches and the things that are going on.”
Kittle has long been an avid blocker for the 49ers in the run game, which has helped cement him amongst the league’s best all-around tight ends, but it’s a good sign to see him earn serious volume, especially in the red zone.
Was it a part of the gameplan to implement those packages specifically for the tight end?
“Yes and no. Last week versus the Arizona Cardinals I thought I was going to have 150 yards and three touchdowns and that’s just not the way that game went,” the tight end joked.
“[San Francisco 49ers Head Coach] Kyle Shanahan calls whatever’s hot. That’s how he feels and that’s why he’s such a talented play caller. I knew I had some activity in the red zone this week, which was really fun and you could see that first play was one of our favorite red zone plays, we called it and went up seven to zero.”
Interestingly enough, Kittle’s highlight performance came on yet, another primetime game, which has been a trend for the tight end throughout his career, even dating back to two weeks ago against the New York Giants.
That ability to show out in primetime has caught up with his teammates, who raved about the tight end’s three-touchdown performance on Sunday.
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk praised his teammate, dubbing the tight end ‘Primetime George’ for his consistency in big moments.
“I tell George all the time, he is Primetime George. The couple of games that I played with him, either Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night whatever the case may be, he comes to win all the time,” Aiyuk said after the game.
Defensive tackle Arik Armstead, one of the longstanding members of the 49ers alongside Kittle, couldn't help but notice the trend either, pointing out the energy that the tight end provides when he’s hot.
“Oh man, he always balls in primetime. It’s like he was made for it, and he’s going to put on a show like he always does. So, that was great to see,” Armstead said.
“He had a phenomenal game, a game that he deserves. Some games, he doesn’t get as involved but tonight he was definitely involved. To see him come alive in the past game was a lot of fun.”
Star Christian McCaffrey hasn't been in the locker room for a long time, but the player and person that Kittle is has already rubbed off on the running back, which may not always be noticed outside the locker room.
“Every week he impresses me,” McCaffrey said. “You look at what he can do with the ball in his hands and he can have three touchdowns, but you look at what he does in the run game and how well he blocks. His attitude, his character, he’s somebody who is a very memorable locker room player. Somebody that, if you play with him, you’re really lucky.”
The 49ers unfortunately will not be playing in primetime this weekend, as they travel to face the Cleveland Browns for a morning showdown, but Kittle will look to work off his dominant three-touchdown performance in Week 6 as San Francisco hopes to remain undefeated.
And hey, if that doesn't work out, there's always the primetime game in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football for newly-dubbed ‘Primetime George’.