George Kittle grinds through groin injury in 49ers' big win over Rams

George Kittle grinds through groin injury in 49ers' big win over Rams

George Kittle had this game circled.

Nothing was going to slow down the 49ers' star tight end, not even a groin injury he tweaked two days before an NFC West showdown with the Rams in Los Angeles. 

“No chance,” Kittle told reporters Sunday after the game. “Like I said, this is a game I had on my calendar for a year. I haven’t liked the way we played against them the last two years. This is a 'dub' we needed to get.”

The 49ers earned their fifth straight "dub" to stay undefeated at 5-0 behind a dominant defense and a huge game from Kittle in a 20-7 win over the Rams. Kittle finished the day with eight receptions on eight targets for a season-high 103 receiving yards. He sent a message that no injury could stop him with an imposing 46-yard gain early in the second quarter. 

Kittle finally was dragged down by four Rams at the 6-yard line. For him, finding yards after the catch by any means is the name of the game.

“You just find space and slash,” Kittle said. “That’s all we talk about, trying to get YAC [yards after catch]. I like YAC, it’s my favorite thing out there. It was just an easy corner route, cut it a little short and just found open space.”

The third-year pro now has 338 receiving yards on the season and 185 yards after catch. As for his injury, don't expect Kittle to miss any time.

Even against a lowly Washington team in Week 7. 

“You kidding me? Come on now,” Kittle said at that notion. 

[RELATED: Why it's time to recognize undefeated 49ers as an elite NFL contender]

Kittle proved he's a star last season when he broke the NFL's single-season receiving yards record for a tight end on a four-win 49ers team. San Francisco already has surpassed that win total this year, and Kittle clearly wants more.

How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense


How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense

Two of the NFL’s best teams in 2019, the New England Patriots and 49ers, both faced a similar problem as the trade deadline approached.

The seemingly well-oiled machines had identified an identical issue: A lack of consistent play from the wide receivers.

While both teams attempted to rectify their passing-game issues at the deadline -- the 49ers dealt a pair of draft picks to the Denver Broncos for Emmanuel Sanders while the Patriots used a second-round pick to acquire Mohamed Sanu from Atlanta -- the results weren’t exactly analogous for the two contenders.

Sanders just completed a dominant performance in New Orleans, catching seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown -- he threw for one, too. Meanwhile, Sanu caught just one pass for 13 yards in Week 14 as New England suffered a home loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Oct. 22, the day both players found their new homes, Sanders is averaging 10.44 receiving yards per target. Sanu? The former Falcon is averaging just 4.66 yards per target.

The 49ers reportedly balked at the price Atlanta wanted for Sanu, but the Patriots might have been better off bringing Sanders in, according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando.

"Sanu has been a solid receiver for a long time, but not as much of a downfield threat. Over the past four seasons, Sanders holds a 67-44 edge over Sanu in passes gaining more than 15 yards, despite Sanu playing four additional games. Sanu could have been a natural fit in San Francisco given that Shanahan was previously his offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He might even be flourishing there, given San Francisco’s superior surrounding talent, including George Kittle. The fit has been questionable in New England.”

The 49ers also have an obvious advantage in fielding George Kittle, who continues to cement his status as one of the NFL’s top tight-ends week in and week out.

[RELATED: Where 49ers, Raiders stand in NFL power rankings now]

But imagine what Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady could have whipped up with Emmanuel Sanders stretching the field.

This might go down as a rare mistake in player personnel from the Patriots’ front office, and it also might just be the move that propels the 49ers into playing February football.

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

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.”

[RELATED: Injuries continue to pile up for 49ers after extended trip]

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.