Matt Maiocco

Why 49ers couldn't get football to George Kittle to break NFL record

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USATSI

Why 49ers couldn't get football to George Kittle to break NFL record

SANTA CLARA -- The task seemed simple enough.

George Kittle needed just 5 yards to break the NFL record for single-game receiving by a tight end. And he had 30 minutes to get it done.

But after a seven-catch, 210-yard first half, Kittle was held without a reception in the second half of the 49ers’ 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“The only people that were happy were probably Shannon Sharpe and my dad,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.

Sharpe owns the single-game record for a tight end with 214 receiving yards, and set that mark while with the Denver Broncos in 2002. His coach was Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. In that particular game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 20, 2002, Sharpe caught one pass for 8 yards in overtime. The Broncos won 37-34.

So, Kittle does have the NFL record for most receiving yards from a tight end in regulation. But through two quarters, it appeared he would be no problem shattering Sharpe’s record.

So, what prevented the 49ers from getting the record for Kittle?

“First of all, I wish that we did, and I definitely could have just said, ‘Hey, my goal in this half is to get George the record,’ ” Kyle Shanahan said. “We had a number of plays called to him. One, we had a lookey call to him, and he got doubled, so you go to Dante (Pettis) on it. That was good.

“Fourth play of it, we had a play called, and they got under it in zone coverage, so we threw it away. After that, I think you have to think in a very humble way when you call games. You try to win the game, and you try to do what’s right.”

There even was a play call in which Shanahan said he wanted quarterback Nick Mullens to get the ball to Kittle on a shovel pass.

“It was covered,” Shanahan said. “If we would have forced it, then he would have lost 3 yards, and now he would have needed 8 yards instead of 5."

[RELATED: Even Broncos sing Kittle's praises after big game]

The 49ers ran 66 total plays in the game, but just 27 of them came in the second half, as the team had difficulty getting first downs and staying on the field.

“I thought it would happen naturally throughout the game,” Shanahan said.

“Every play mattered there at the end, so you’re just trying to call plays to try to win the game, not to break a record. That’s what you feel bad about. I wish he could have broken the record. He deserved to.”

49ers' Pierre Garçon will have season-ending knee surgery, head to IR

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AP

49ers' Pierre Garçon will have season-ending knee surgery, head to IR

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon will undergo a season-ending procedure on his knee on Tuesday. 

Garçon, 32, missed the past four games with a knee condition and will go on injured reserve this week, coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.

The veteran wideout appeared in eight games this season and caught 24 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown, but Garçon’s future with the 49ers is in question. He is scheduled to earn $6 million in salary and bonuses next season.

The 49ers have three wide receivers on the practice squad who are candidates to be promoted for the final three games: Victor Bolden Jr., Max McCaffrey and Steven Dunbar.

[RELATED: NFL Power Rankings Week 15]

In other injury news, defensive end Cassius Marsh reported to the team facility with concussion symptoms on Monday and was placed in the NFL’s return-to-play protocol.

Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle) and Tarvarius Moore (shoulder) are day-to-day. Running back Matt Breida (ankle), safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder), cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee), and linebackers Mark Nzeocha (groin) and Malcolm Smith (Achilles), will be re-checked on Wednesday.

Rookie defensive lineman Kentavius Street, a fourth-round pick who tore his ACL in the pre-draft process, might practice this week, Shanahan said. Street remains on the non-football injury list. He will not play this season, but the 49ers can get him on the practice field for the final three weeks.

How 49ers' Dante Pettis learned some rookie lessons Sunday vs. Broncos

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USATSI

How 49ers' Dante Pettis learned some rookie lessons Sunday vs. Broncos

SANTA CLARA -- Talented rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis definitely looked like a talented rookie on Sunday in the 49ers’ 20-14 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Pettis messed up, redeemed himself, then messed up again in a critical four-minute span in which the 49ers were just trying to hold on against the Broncos at Levi’s Stadium.

It’s all part of the learning curve for Pettis. He remained as the starter in front of veteran Marquise Goodwin, who returned to action after missing the two previous games to deal with a serious family matter.

Pettis caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and the 49ers did not hesitate to go to him on a couple of crucial third-down plays late in the game.

[RELATED: Week 14 win over Broncos]

With seven minutes remaining and the 49ers leading 20-7, quarterback Nick Mullens threw to Pettis on a crossing pattern on a third-and-2 play. Pettis had the first down and plenty of room to run, but he dropped the waist-high pass.

“I just tried to run before I caught the ball,” Pettis said. “I knew I was going to be wide open. The ball, honestly, I did not see Nick. I just saw the ball come out of nowhere, so it surprised me a little bit and I just tried to turn up the field and run with it before grabbing it. Just one of those things. You just drop it sometimes.”

The 49ers were forced to punt, and Denver responded with a 14-play, 69-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to just six points with four minutes to play.

In similar situations, this season, the 49ers’ offense had been unable to close out victories. Faced with a huge third-and-7 play from their own 23, Mullens again looked for Pettis. This time, Pettis secured the catch after Mullens dropped it behind running back Jeff Wilson Jr. and two Broncos defenders.

“I was like, ‘OK, this is coming to me. I know I have to make up for this,’ ” Pettis said.

Pettis gained 31 yards on the play, but he made a miscalculation as he neared the sideline. The Broncos had just one timeout remaining, and Pettis had a lapse in judgment as he ran out of bounds with 3:32 remaining to stop the clock.

Pettis said he thought he could outrun Broncos safety Dymonte Thomas to the end zone. He said he realized he made a critical error as he was about to make contact with Thomas at the sideline. Pettis said he considered going down in the field of play several yards before that.

“I thought about it at first, probably around 25 yards, ‘I should get down,’” Pettis said. “But then I was like, ‘Screw it, I’m scoring.’ I tried to get around him and it didn’t work out.”

Despite his obvious mistakes, Pettis has worked out since entering the starting lineup against Tampa Bay in Week 12. After being plagued by a knee injury and other ailments earlier in the season, Pettis has 363 yards receiving (second on the team behind tight end George Kittle) with team-highs of five touchdowns and a 19.1 average yards per catch.

[RELATED: George Kittle gets compliments from Broncos]

“Just being able to play more and get more comfortable in there helps a lot,” said Pettis, who played 61 of the 49ers’ 72 offensive snaps on Sunday against the Broncos. “Obviously, when you score and you’re able to get open and all that stuff, it helps a lot, too.”