George Kittle made the most significant play of the NFL’s Week 14 slate, catching a short fourth-down pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and willing his way into field-goal range.
The herculean effort from Kittle set kicker Robbie Gould up for a game-winning 30-yard field goal to give San Francisco a crucial 48-46 victory in New Orleans that propelled the 49ers back to the top of the NFC standings.
Unsurprisingly, coach Kyle Shanahan diagrammed this play for Kittle to be the No. 1 option, and that’s exactly what happened.
“The rookie [C.J.] Gardner-Johnson is matched up 1-on-1 with Kittle,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. “The beauty of this play is, a lot of times the 49ers will run an in-breaking route off of this, but here he had the option to break out and he breaks out.
“Gardner-Johnson, who’s kind of laying inside for it, now is at a disadvantage and he’s trailing behind and that becomes the completion to George Kittle.”
George Kittle's 39-yard reception on 4th & 2 (with 39 seconds left) set up a @49ers game-winning FG. Kittle gained 36.6 yards after catch (+27.6 above expectation).@gkittle46 has gained 1,341 YAC since 2018, 2nd-most in the NFL (behind only C. McCaffrey).#SFvsNO | #GoNiners pic.twitter.com/bjSFSjcvVf— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 8, 2019
Kittle’s wise decision to break outside put San Francisco back into the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs, but the 49ers will need to keep the momentum going as the final weeks of the season roll on in order to secure the home-field advantage NFL teams so desperately crave come postseason time.