SANTA CLARA — With 1,103 receiving yards through 13 games, George Kittle comfortably holds the record for a 49ers tight end in a single season.
But he could have had more, so much more, in the 49ers' 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.
Kittle ended the day with 210 receiving yards, four shy of Shannon Sharpe's single-game record for a tight end. Then with the Broncos, Sharpe caught 12 of 14 targets for 214 yards on Oct. 20, 2002.
What is unusual is that all of Kittle's yards came in the first half. He was targeted once in the second half, but did not come up with the five yards he needed.
Kittle said someone told him halfway through the fourth quarter how close he was to the record. Yet, he told reporters after the game the final score was more important.
“The fact that we got a win is all I really care about at all,” Kittle said. “Coach Shanahan already apologized twice to me for not getting me the ball. I’ll just put the blame on him, it’s ok.”
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Shanahan expressed regret Kittle was unable to break the record, and added that about seven different people told him just how close Kittle was.
“I told him he needed to apologize for not getting 215 in the first half,” Shanahan quipped. “I’m just joking. Yeah, I definitely apologized to him. We were definitely debating on how we could do it there at the end.
“I didn’t think it’d be a problem, but I wish he did get it because to have that all in the first half and be only five yards away. He had an unbelievable day and it sucked that he didn’t get it.”
Shanahan praised Kittle’s ability to create separation and make plays after the catch.
"When that ball is in the air, “ Shanahan said, “the play is just starting. He’s trying to catch it and he runs angry. He runs confidently and he expects to score on every look. I think that’s why it’s been easier to get him the yards he has.”
Offensive tackle Joe Staley said that they knew about the possibility of Kittle breaking Sharpe’s record coming in at halftime. Staley told reporters he's a fan of Kittle's unique skill set.
“I don’t think there’s a tight end like him,” Staley said. “He’s really, really fast. Like deceptively, really fast, and he’s an unbelievable blocker in the run game. He’s not a one dimensional tight end. He’s not a receiving tight end. He’s dynamic in everything he does.”
Staley also explained that Kittle is very similar to former teammate Vernon Davis, whose record Kittle broke.
“I played with Vernon, prime Vernon,” Staley said. “They’re really similar as far as being complete tight ends. I think that Vernon’s skill set is his athleticism. George has every bit of that athleticism that Vernon has.
“I think Vernon and Kittle are very similar to what you can do in the run game as well, and how they approach that stuff. That’s a good comparison.”
In Kittle’s college career, he caught 48 passes for 737 yards in 25 games. But, he was known for his blocking in Iowa’s run-first offense. Kittle burst onto the NFL scene in his rookie season, when he caught 43 of his 63 targets for 515 yards and two touchdowns.
At this rate, his third season could be off the charts.