SANTA CLARA — No one is more joyful than George Kittle on game day, except maybe George Kittle on a game day that's also National Tight Ends Day.
Kittle had a touchdown called back because of a penalty for the third time this season, and even though he didn't put points on the board Sunday, his spirits weren’t dampened at all. He still was Jimmy Garoppolo's top receiver, snagging six of his seven targets for 86 yards, and the 49ers posted a 51-13 win over the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium to remain undefeated.
Outside of his own personal performance, Kittle received two presents for his positional holiday. The first was wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who arrived via trade to the 49ers on Tuesday and drew some of the Panthers defense's attention off Kittle five days later.
"He's pretty good," Kittle said of Sanders, who caught four passes for 25 yards and one touchdown. "I mean, he's established. He knows how to win. He's a great player. You don't have to coach him -- just have to get him to know what our offense is about. I think he did a fantastic job.
"He made the plays when we called his number. He's a distraction on some plays, and I think he did everything we wanted him to do today. If we can keep doing that moving forward, it's going to be some fun football."
Both Sanders and Kittle additionally benefitted from the resurgence of a 49ers run game that had been stifled. Kittle's run-blocker role is crucial, and he was excited to see it pay off Sunday, especially for running back Tevin Coleman, who scored four touchdowns in a career day.
Kittle's second surprise was a visit from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, his childhood idol, at his locker after the game.
"That was pretty cool," Kittle said. "I grew up watching Brett Favre. I was born in Wisconsin, so I grew up a Packers, Bears fan, kind of. I got to watch Brett play a long time. He's always been one of my favorite players. Just the joy that he always plays with, I feel like we are similar in that regard.
"Just being able to talk to him is kind of an honor, so yeah, I’m fan-boying out over that pretty big time. It’s pretty exciting."
Favre was, of course, wearing the official National Tight End Day T-shirt. And fans arriving at Levi's Stadium received a Kittle bobblehead.
If you’re attending #CARvsSF and you’re not at @LevisStadium yet - get a moving! It’s an early crowd today -— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) October 27, 2019
It’s also #NationalTightEndsDay and @gkittle46 bobble head day!
(No, this is not mine - it’s for the @NBCS49ers pregame show!) pic.twitter.com/YWgccxPanp