The George Kittle Play

49ers 48 Saints 46

Jim Rome
December 09, 2019 - 10:00 am
George Kittle

USA Today


Normally on Monday, the first segment is a recap of Sunday’s games. Essentially a whip around the league, hitting the highlights and weird moments. That’s the format.

But today I’m breaking it. And I am breaking it for one reason and one reason only. This...

The George Kittle Play. As good as the other games were yesterday, there are no other highlights to compare to that one. If that isn’t the play of the year, I don’t know what is. When you consider the situation and the stakes that might not be the play of the year that might be the play of years.

39 seconds left. 4th and 2 on their own 33. And just before the ball is snapped, Kyle Shanahan calls timeout. He changed the play. He changed it to a Choice route and it was a good choice – hey-o!

Here we go again. 

39 seconds left. 4th and 2 on their own 33. Roll it.

Everything about that was incredible. The route, the catch, the run, the fact that he had Marcus Williams attached to his facemask and kept on rumbling. He made Marcus Williams, a damn good db, look like a bug on his windshield.

I’ve tried to warn you all about George Kittle. He is an absolute monster. Guys aren’t supposed to be that big, that fast, that physical, that athletic and that impossible to bring down. Kittle is so good, so dangerous, and so versatile. He can dominate a game without catching a pass, that’s how good a blocker he is. And when he catches a pass, you better hope he runs out of bounds, because if he doesn’t, someone is going to pay a price.

I’ve tried to tell you. 

Just like I’ve tried to tell you for a while, the 49ers are for real. And maybe now you’ll believe me. They are really for real. You go to Baltimore and come that close to winning a fight in the rain with the best team in the AFC, then you spend a week out east and go to New Orleans to face the number one team in the NFC – that’s the kind of thing that would crush most teams.

Most teams would show up in New Orleans a shell of themselves. They’d be banged up and bruised from the Ravens game and they’d be thinking about the fact that they pretty much have a wild card spot rapped up and would sleepwalk through that Saints game. 

Most teams would see Drew Brees and the Saints offense, Cam Jordan and the Saints defense, hear that crowd, and call it a day. Check you guys next week. Mentally prepare for what’s still ahead; but not waste the energy necessary to beat the best team in the conference, in their house, after having to deal with the best team in the other conference, in their house a week earlier. For who, for what. And hell nahhhh!

And especially after falling behind 20-7 early in the second quarter. But I’ve tried to tell you about these Niners. They aren’t just talented, they aren’t just well-coached, they are tough as hell, mentally and physically. And they play bully ball. Going into that dome, falling behind by double digits and coming back to win, are you serious about you? 

They fall behind 20-7 on the first play of the second quarter and one play later, they score on a 75-yard Emmanuel Sanders touchdown. 

New Orleans comes back with a long TD drive, and San Francisco responds with two of their own to take a 28-27 lead into halftime.

55 points in the first half wasn’t what anyone was expecting yesterday, but when you put Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan together, they are going to take shots. And they were landing them. That was electric ball. . That first half was already one of the best games of the year. 

And it only got even better. Because after Robbie Gould gave San Francisco a 5-point lead with 2:23 to go, Drew Brees went to work. And you knew how that drive would end, with the Saints in the end zone.

That was a given. As good as the Niners defense is, Brees is an absolute legend. The Niners had their chances to end it on that drive, especially with an interception, but it just didn’t happen.

And that would’ve been the storyline. The Niners went on the road, played another elite team tough as hell, but didn’t quite finish. The story would go that there was nothing but respect for the Niners and maybe one of these days they would break through. 

Yesterday was that day. And the breakthrough was George Kittle vs. The Saints secondary. 

As Kittle said afterwards: “Our tight end coach (Jon Embree) always says, don’t get let one guy tackle you. That’s my mindset, just try to run through him, try to carry him as far as I can.”

By the end of the run, it was no longer a run. It was just a street fight. A mugging. Where three dudes jumped George Kittle in an alley, and somehow they came out of the brawl looking the worst of it. Much worse. 

39 yards on 4th and 2 plus more for the facemask. And it’ll come as no surprise that Kittle wasn’t bothered by the facemask. As he told Peter King: “I knew he’d get flagged for it, so I was actually happy—it just meant 15 more yards for us.’’

Nor should it come as a surprise that the rest of the 49ers team was going insane. As Richard Sherman said: “Most people would go down and complain to the refs about the facemask. He was like, I’m going to bully you all the way to the end zone or until you stop me. We don’t win the game without that play.”

That was a statement play for Kittle and the Niners. On the road, in the loudest environment possible, with a potential number 1 seed in the NFC on the line, and they come up with that play on fourth down and then win it with a FG.

Bully you into the end zone or until you stop me is the perfect description. Because Kittle was looking to make guys pay. And the Niners made the Saints pay. That was Kyle Shanahan going up against one of the greatest offensive minds of all-time in Sean Payton, and winning. That was Jimmy Garoppolo going up against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Drew Brees, and winning.

Every question you had about the Niners should’ve been answered a long time ago, and if it wasn’t, it was answered yesterday in New Orleans. They aren’t just going to beat you with crazy schemes, they’re going to beat you with their physicality. And their mental toughness.

As Kittle said: “One thing Coach Shanahan always says is, ‘Don’t let the bear loose in the building.’ No matter what happens, just keep calm, cool, collected, and just ride the wave. I think we did really good with that. There were ups and downs, we just kept going.”

At the risk of twisting that metaphor in a totally different direction: the bear was loose in the building yesterday. He was wearing an 85 jersey and mauling people. And it was awesome.