GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 49ers appear to have dodged a bullet, as the injury to George Kittle’s knee does not appear to be that serious. But thankfully, they know they have a very reliable backup option in Ross Dwelley if Kittle ever misses any time.
Dwelley not only has lined up at tight end, but he has also stood in at fullback for Kyle Juszczyk, who has been out nursing a knee injury since Week 5.
Dwelley only had an average of 0.5 yards per catch prior to the 49ers' 28-25 win in Arizona, but it’s what he does that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet that has been key for the 49ers. Regardless, the team still took the time to give him a hard time about his low yard totals.
“We were messing with Dwelley all week,” coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “We said the No. 1 goal in this game was to win, but the No. 2 goal was to improve his yards-per-catch average because we think he was at zero or one. To do that on the last play was pretty cool. I know the guys were pumped up.”
That last play might have been Dwelley’s most important catch as a member of the 49ers. The offense faced a third-and-9 situation that could have either ended the game or resulted in a punt that would give the ball back to the Cardinals.
After making the grab from QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Dwelley took a page out of Kittle’s yards-after-catch book and spun around, taking Cardinals cornerback Kevin Peterson with him. He ended up gaining 11 yards and effectively clinching the game.
“I always know where the first down marker is,” Dwelley said. “So I knew when I caught it I needed three or four extra yards, so I ducked my head to get it.”
That particular play is designed for Kittle, who had taken himself out of the game knowing he had lost some mobility due to injury. Garoppolo knew he could count on Dwelley to make the play.
“He’s just locked in,” Garoppolo said. “Every opportunity he gets, whether it’s a choice route, something down the field, blocking … he’s just locked in and you love to have a guy like that. A guy you can trust, and in big moments, makes big plays.”
Dwelley finished the night catching all four of his targets for 29 yards, giving him a new average of four yards-per-catch through eight games.
The 49ers hope to get Juszczyk back in Week 10 for the matchup with the division-rival Seahawks but if Kittle has to miss any time, Dwelley will be ready to stand in. The University of San Diego product has followed so closely in Kittle’s footsteps that he has proudly earned the nickname “Baby George.”
“That’s a heck of a compliment, so I’m fine with that.”