NEW ORLEANS – Following the loss last week to the Baltimore Ravens, 49ers tight end George Kittle sought out CEO Jed York to make an emotional promise.
“I was talking to Kittle last week,” York told NBC Sports Bay Area, “and he was with his parents at the end of the game, and he said, ‘We got it next week.’”
Kittle knew this would be an difficult week for the York family. One year ago on Saturday, Jed York’s brother, Tony York, died at the age of 35. The 49ers took the field on Sunday in New Orleans with “TY” helmet decals.
And when his team needed a big play on a fourth-and-2 in the final minute, of course, it was Kittle who came through with the reception of the game to help propel the 49ers to a riveting 48-46 victory over the Saints.
“And watching him on that play was just huge,” Jed York said.
Kittle made the catch of a Jimmy Garoppolo pass, picked up the first down – and was not satisfied until he got a heck of a lot more. Kittle’s 39-yard reception included 31 yards after the catch. Then, the 49ers picked up an additional 15 yards when New Orleans safety Marcus Williams was called for a facemask penalty as he did all he could to try to tackle Kittle.
The play put the 49ers in position for Robbie Gould’s 30-yard field goal as time expired for the winning points.
A year ago, the 49ers had an emotional victory over the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium just two days after Tony York’s death. Jed York spoke passionately to the team after that game.
On Sunday, Jed York was too emotional to speak to the victorious 49ers' locker room. Team co-chair Dr. John York addressed the team following the victory over the Saints, which took place just a few miles from where Tony attended college at Tulane University.
“It was an emotional beginning of the week, and I tried to get that out,” Jed York said. “My brother liked to party and have fun and celebrate. So you had to celebrate.
“Tony was just cool. He’d be smiling, probably have a hurricane. That’s Tony.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan presented members of the York family, including twin sisters Jenna and Mara, with game balls after the victory over the Saints. Kittle relished his role in bringing the victory to the family, and helping team improve to 11-2 on the season.
“We were going to do everything we could,” said Kittle, who caught six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. “We know he’s watching over us. We’re just going to do everything we can to get this ‘W’ for their family. What they do for us as a team is incredible. They spare no expense. They just want us to be as successful as we can. I couldn’t ask for a better owner.
“There was a lot of emotion. Usually, the family is down on Fridays and Saturdays. We didn’t get to see them because, obviously, it’s tough time for them. They are so incredible to us and the support we get from them day-in and day-out is bar none.”
Kittle paused a bit when asked about his promise to Jed York and how it was his clutch play that got the 49ers into position for the winning points.
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“It’s football, and things come full circle sometimes,” Kittle said.
Said Jed York, “You can’t get too ahead of yourself. It was definitely special. We have a lot more to accomplish. I think if anything, it shows the tightness we have as an entire group. Everybody having each other’s back.”