SANTA CLARA -- Over his five-year NFL career with the 49ers, George Kittle has exhibited the speed and strength that make him the best tight end in football. It's a combination that players and coaches alike dream of. In San Francisco's heartbreaking loss last week to the Seattle Seahawks, he showed off an added new skill set as well.
Racing down the sidelines in Seattle, the tight end might as well have replaced his cleats with the shoes of a ballet dancer or a daredevil tight-roping in front of amazed fans. At one point, it looked like he lost his balance. Fear not, Kittle stayed on his feet and in bounds, capping off an incredible 48-yard touchdown for his second score of the day.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end had a pretty interesting reason for staying on his feet, too.
In the offseason, Kittle did his best Simone Biles impression, working extensively on the balance beam to have the best footwork possible for plays just like the one in Seattle. As he ran down the sideline and into the end zone, he certainly felt extra satisfaction as well.
"I mean, I think so," Kittle said Thursday when asked if that came into play during his long TD. "I spent 30 minutes-plus to an hour every day on the balance beam in the offseason five days a week. Balance or just my foot, ankle, calf strength -- just trying to work on that. I think it really helped, I really do.
"It's just fun, I was literally laughing at myself running down the sideline."
Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was excited to see Kittle be able to go into hyperdrive, especially after dealing with his calf injury this year.
"It was cool to see George feel that he had that extra gear," McDaniel said. "I think you guys heard it during the week, he took Seahawks week very personal and wanted to do everything in his power to will us to victory.
"Wins and losses, they drive our livelihood for sure. But you also are very careful in not only celebrating good plays when you win. You have to have a standard in how you operate and there's a lot of things that factor into a win or loss.
After going without a touchdown the first four games of the season, Kittle now has scored five touchdowns in the 49ers' last five games. It also helps this might be the healthiest he has been all season. Kittle called his calf injury earlier in the year the worst of his career aside from breaking his foot. The injury became progressively worse until he had to miss multiple weeks.
Last week's showing of his rare ability to combine speed, power and now balance was a big step forward for Kittle. The result, however, was not. Kittle was extremely hungry for a win in Seattle, and that only has grown going into the 49ers' upcoming Week 14 battle against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm just excited to get back on the field with the guys, because I think everybody was definitely disappointed in the loss," Kittle said. "I'm not going to say we're more inspired than usual but guys are locked in and ready to roll."