INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In the final moments of the 49ers' Week 14 win over the Saints in New Orleans, Jimmy Garoppolo threw an eight-yard pass to George Kittle on fourth-and-2, who ran 31 yards after the catch with three defenders attempting to tackle him.
Even with Saints safety Marcus Williams hanging from Kittle’s face mask, the 49ers' tight end couldn't be taken down.
George Freakin’ Kittle 😱😱😱pic.twitter.com/y7ywfKYM2L— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) December 8, 2019
That image of Kittle running down the sideline personifies his bruising style of play. He has thrived with the mentality that he is going to hit defenders harder than they can hit him. It can cause opposing players to take “creative angles” when Kittle has the ball in his hands.
Kittle also is a huge key to the success of the 49ers run game. He takes pride in his run-blocking and enjoys taking on defensive ends, which at times, outweigh him by several pounds.
That high level of contact obviously can be the cause of more wear and tear on the body, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday that he would never try to take away that element away from Kittle’s repertoire. His request to Kittle is a different type of goal.
“I tell him to try to score every play,” Shanahan said. “He doesn’t need to go hurt himself, but tell him to try to score every play. I think that’s why we’re all talking about him right now, because he actually does, and he plays a certain way.
“I understand there are questions. That’s a business decision, and sometimes that’s not always a good decision, because now you’re not who you are. You’re not as good of a player."
Kittle knows his physical play can result in injuries, but he isn't changing any time soon. He played much of the 2018 season with a rib injury. Even after what is sure to be a sizable contract extension, his head coach knows that will not change.
“That’s not how Kittle plays,” Shanahan said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey we need you to be tough here.’ That’s just who he is. That’s why he’s special. That’s why he’s different than a lot of people. We could try to take that away from him, which would make him not as good of a player.”
Shanahan tries to get the ball in Kittle's hands with open space, resulting in Kittle leading the 49ers with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and breaking the single-season tight end receiving record.
“That’s why we try to get him outside some, and things like that,” Shanahan said. “But good luck with George and that. George knows what he enjoys, and that’s why he’s one of the better players in the league."