49ers

49ers' George Kittle can break NFL season record for tight end receiving yards

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49ers' George Kittle can break NFL season record for tight end receiving yards

George Kittle is on pace for a record-setting Sunday in Week 17, but he isn't the only NFL tight end in that position. 

Kittle, who leads the 49ers with 1,228 receiving yards this season, needs 100 on Sunday to break New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's single-season record of 1,327 yards. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, meanwhile, only needs 54.

“It’s a target,” Kittle said Wednesday (via SFGate). “I definitely want to get it done. It’s not a lost cause if I don’t get it done, but it would be really fun for us.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Antone Exum awaits ruling on hit, hopes he didn't play for free]

The 25-year-old is in the middle of one of the best seasons from a 49ers tight end in franchise history. With one game to go, he is already 263 yards clear of Vernon Davis' previous franchise record. Kittle needs only four receptions on Sunday to surpass Eric Johnson's single-season record (82), and seven more targets to surpass Davis' record (128).

Since Nick Mullens took over at quarterback in Week 9, Kittle is averaging six receptions -- on 9.3 targets -- for 92 yards per game. In other words, the NFL record for yards and the 49ers' record for catches from a tight end are well within Kittle's normal range. But, the QB said that doesn't mean the 49ers are going to force Kittle the ball.  

“We’re aware of it — we know the situation,” Mullens said. “But at the same time, we’re trying to win the game. So if it happens, it happens and that’s awesome. Kittle has had one heck of a year and he deserves a ton of credit. … We’ll see how it shakes out.”

[RELATED: Nick Mullens smartly leaning on 49ers vets Joe Staley, Richard Sherman]

Also working in Kittle's favor is his opponent's defense. The Los Angeles Rams have allowed the 10th-most yards by tight ends this season (920), and the third-most targets. Those 116 targets have only translated into 70 receptions, however. 

What isn't helping Kittle's pursuit of the record is Kelce and the Chiefs' matchup. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most yards (998) to tight ends. 

Kittle will need some luck on his side to break Gronk's record and surpass Kelce, but neither notion is out of the question. 

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 27-21 loss to Falcons

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 27-21 loss to Falcons

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers came into Week 15 atop the NFC and in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons have not been in playoff contention at any point this season.

But the Falcons proved in recent weeks to be dangerous to two of the top teams in the NFC.

After beating the New Orleans Saints on the road last month, they upset the 49ers, 29-22, at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

The 49ers quickly were brought back down to earth after their exhilarating 48-46 victory over the Saints last week.

Letdown? New Orleans hangover? What the heck happened?

“I think that team played better than us today,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I didn’t see our guys not playing hard. I think our guys played hard, but [the Falcons] played better and coached better.”

Here are the 49ers’ grades from their Week 15 loss to the Falcons:  

Rushing offense

The 49ers used their running game as part of a 21-play, 88-yard drive that ended in a touchdown in the second quarter. But the consistency was not there to keep the chains moving throughout the game.

Raheem Mostert gained 54 yards on 14 carries. Tevin Coleman had 40 yards on four attempts, but 37 of those yards came on one run. Matt Breida struggled with 11 yards on four carries, and also committed a costly fumble in the fourth quarter as the 49ers were driving for a score. 

Grade: D-minus  

Passing offense

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was not at his best, but he certainly is not the reason the 49ers lost this game. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

The pass protection was spotty, though Garoppolo was sacked just one time in the game. Vic Beasley beat left tackle Joe Staley with an inside pass-rush move early on.

George Kittle was outstanding with 13 catches for 134 yards, but he had an unforced fumble late in the game on a play in which it looked as if he would be able to pick up a key first down to help the 49ers run out the clock.

[RELATED: Teammates don't blame Kittle for 49ers' loss to Falcons]

The wide receivers were nonexistent. Deebo Samuel had one drop. His only reception went for 29 yards. Emmanuel Sanders had two catches for nine yards. Kendrick Bourne had a drop, and he had just one reception for 11 yards. 

Grade: D-plus  

Rushing Defense

The 49ers’ run defense did a good job on Devonta Freeman, who picked up just 39 yards on 12 carries. Some of the biggest plays from the Falcons' running game came from quarterback Matt Ryan, who scrambled for 27 yards on five attempts.

Linebacker Fred Warner led the 49ers’ defense with nine tackles, including one stop for a loss. 

Grade: B    

Passing Defense

When the game was on the line, the 49ers could not stop the Falcons from marching down the field for the winning points. That’s what this game was all about.

The best player on the field was wide receiver Julio Jones. He caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers did not have an answer for Jones at the goal line.

Jones posted up against 49ers safety Jimmie Ward at the goal line. He did just enough to screen off Ward and catch the pass that broke the plane of the goal line for the game-winning touchdown.

Sheldon Day and Nick Bosa broke through for sacks, but the 49ers’ pass rush did not dominate this game like they had hoped against an inferior Atlanta offensive line. There were no takeaways in the passing game.

Overall, for all four quarters, the 49ers do not deserve a failing grade. But the fact that they gave up back-to-back 75- and 70-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter at the worst possible times locks in this failing mark ... 

Grade: D-minus  

Special Teams

There were plenty of good things that the 49ers did on special teams. Mitch Wishnowsky had good hang time on his punts, and his 41.3-yard net average was in keeping with what he has done this season.

The 49ers also forced a takeaway on special teams when Ross Dwelley stripped punt returner Kenjon Barner of the ball. Kyle Juszczyk recovered, and two plays later he scored on a 1-yard pass from Garoppolo.

Mostert also was his usual impressive self as a gunner on punt coverage.

But Robbie Gould missed an extra point in the fourth quarter when he hooked it wide. That seemed to signal a change in momentum. Instead of a 10-point lead, it was nine. 

Grade: B-minus  

Overall

It is easy to see why the 49ers would have struggled in this game. But they had to do a lot of things wrong in order to lose it. Yes, the Falcons are not the pushovers that their record suggests. They played a carefree brand of football and seemed energized and excited about this game.

The 49ers might not have taken the Falcons lightly, but they did not bring the same energy that they brought to that exciting showdown last week in New Orleans. That is understandable.

But the 49ers lacked the workmanlike performance that good teams put together that enable them to win games when they are not able to muster their A-game. Now, the 49ers have no wiggle room if they have any hopes of winning the NFC West and earning home-field advantage in the playoffs. 

Grade: D-minus

Why 49ers can't use injuries as excuse for deserved loss vs. Falcons

Why 49ers can't use injuries as excuse for deserved loss vs. Falcons

The 49ers were not pleased with their effort in their 29-22 home loss to the Falcons on Sunday, and they weren't the only ones.

"Really disappointing game by the 49ers," NBC Sports Bay Area's Jeff Garcia said on "49ers Postgame Live" moments after the game. "And really shouldn't have even been in this game had it not been for mistakes by Atlanta all game long. The penalties were killing Atlanta, keeping drives alive for the 49ers to actually be in this game the way that it was."

Garcia has a point. Although the Falcons ended up on top, they didn't make it any easier on themselves by committing penalties at several crucial points throughout the game. Atlanta had a recovered onside kick nullified by a penalty, and also extended multiple San Francisco drives with infractions. Still, the 49ers ended up with the loss.

"I just am disappointed in how they came out," Garcia added. "They didn't show the fight they've shown over the past three weeks against some of the top teams in the National Football League, and they got what they deserved today. They got it handed to them."

It's worth noting that the 49ers were missing several key players on Sunday, including starters like Richard Sherman, Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt. That inevitably made San Francisco's task tougher, but nonetheless, the 49ers were in position to win the game.

"Absolutely it becomes too much," NBC Sports Bay Area's Donte Whitner said of the injuries, "but if George Kittle gets that first down and not fumble that football, then they leave here with a win. They have injuries on the defensive side of the football, the injuries on the offensive line proved to be too much, and then you played down to the level of your competition. Too many big plays given up, too many penalties and too many mistakes."

[RELATED: Teammates don't blame Kittle for 49ers' loss to Falcons]

The 49ers essentially have no more room for error, and now must address those mistakes on a short week before facing the Rams on Saturday.