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Why Kittle wasn't targeted on final two plays vs. Seahawks

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SEATTLE — The 49ers moved the ball all the way down the field and were in position to send the game to overtime in the closing seconds.

On two plays from the 3-yard line, the Seattle Seahawks’ focus was on making sure 49ers tight end George Kittle did not beat them.

They accomplished their goal, as they completed the season sweep of the 49ers on Sunday.

Two consecutive Jimmy Garoppolo passes intended for 49ers wide receiver Trent Sherfield fell incomplete, and the 49ers saw an end to their three-game win streak with a 30-23 loss to the Seahawks in Week 13. Kittle finished the game with nine catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He caught four passes for 60 yards on the final drive.

So why didn’t Garoppolo try to force his final pass attempts to Kittle? Coach Kyle Shanahan clearly felt Garoppolo made the correct decisions.

“To throw into double coverage?” Shanahan asked to make sure he understood a reporter’s question. “I don’t think so.”

On the third-down play, Kittle said the pass would have come to him against zone coverage. But against man coverage, the play is difficult to execute. Kittle was double-covered on the fourth-down play.

“They did a good job of following me around,” Kittle said. “The very last play, I had two guys on me.” On third down, Seattle cornerback Sidney Jones IV broke up the pass for Sherfield. The 49ers believed a penalty should have been called.

 

“I’ve been hearing that Trent got held on the third-down play a little bit,” Garoppolo said. “He was the backside read on it. They took away everything on the front side. I tried to give him a ball to catch and it was a tough, contested one.”

On fourth down, Garoppolo is convinced it would have been a touchdown to an open Sherfield on an in-breaking route.

But defensive end Carlos Dunlap, working against 49ers’ right tackle Tom Compton, swatted the ball down with his left hand.

“It’s tough, especially when you’re going against a D-end that’s 6-(foot-)7 with power forward arms,” 49ers left tackle Trent Williams said. “It’s tough man. There’s no way you can keep a man’s hands down, not with the rules we’re governed with.

“That’s why guys with long arms, they’re pretty sought after because they can do stuff like that.”

Garoppolo completed 20 of 30 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the game.

RELATED: Jimmy G assesses what happened on two interceptions vs. Seahawks

But despite a lot of mistakes throughout the game, the 49ers had a chance late in the game. The 49ers drove 95 yards on 12 plays in the final minutes after Azeez Al-Shaair and Dontae Johnson teamed up on a takeaway to give the offense one final shot.

“That’s football, though,” Garoppolo said. “You can do all the stuff you want, all the good stuff in the world, make plays, get down in position and at the end of the day it comes down to that one play.

“Did you make it or not? That’s the way the chips fall.”

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