Los Angeles Rams

George Kittle believes 49ers have answer for anything NFC West could bring

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USATSI

George Kittle believes 49ers have answer for anything NFC West could bring


George Kittle has just laid down the gauntlet for the 49ers' NFC West opponents during Friday's edition of NFL Network’s show "Good Morning Football."

When he was asked about each team in the division, the star tight end responded with a weapon the 49ers possess to counter their opponents current and, in the Arizona Cardinals' case, potential future strengths.

Kittle’s answer for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was Richard Sherman. DeForest Buckner was his counter for the defending NFC champion Rams, and head coach Kyle Shanahan was his retort for a potential Kyler Murray-led Cardinals offense.

“The glass is always overflowing,” is Kittle’s life motto and his standout sophomore season is evidence. He broke the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377 yards. 

Kittle has been chronicling his offseason workouts on his social media and is ready to enter the 2019 offseason full steam ahead. 

[RELATED: Kyle Shanahan knows Kliff Kingsbury's offense will present challenges]

Other teams may make these statements bulletin board fodder, but honestly, that’s just Kittle’s personality. He’s apparently not scared of anything that an NFC West team is bringing to the table, nor any other organization in the league. 

Kittle’s confidence and enthusiasm are contagious which is likely why he was voted a team captain by his teammates in just his second season. 

How NFL pass interference rule change could have altered 49ers history

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USATSI

How NFL pass interference rule change could have altered 49ers history

The NFL issued a rule change Tuesday, and New Orleans Saints fans likely are pleased about it.

(Actually, they're probably still quite pissed.)

NFL owners approved a change for at least the 2019 season that will make pass interference -- both offensive and defensive -- a reviewable play. Additionally, coaches will be able to challenge non-calls for pass interference.

The proposed change had significant momentum as a result of the blatant missed pass interference call during the final minutes of the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game that should have given the Saints a first-and-goal opportunity and a chance to go up a touchdown with under two minutes remaining.

Instead, the call was missed, the Saints were forced to kick a field goal, the Los Angeles Rams tied it with 15 seconds remaining in regulation and eventually won in overtime to clinch a trip to Super Bowl LIII. The Saints and the rest of the football world were left wondering how such an obvious penalty could have gone uncalled.

Thus, the rule change. It won't take the sting out of that painful memory for Saints fans, but it will hopefully ensure that such an egregious mistake on the part of the officials doesn't happen again, particularly in such an important moment.

Which brings us to the 49ers. No, a missed pass interference call was not the difference between them making the Super Bowl or not last season. But just like every NFL team, they have both benefitted and been victimized by improperly ruled pass interference calls practically every time they've taken the field.

Some of those instances, however, stick out more than others.

[RELATED: Shanahan: Jimmy G looks good, has added weight in rehab]

Here's a look at some memorable plays (in chronological order) from 49ers history that might have turned out differently under the new rule change:

1983 NFC Championship Game

The 49ers were this close to going to the Super Bowl. Then the officials got in the way.

San Francisco led 21-17 over the Redskins late in the fourth quarter, but Washington had the ball at the 49ers' 45-yard-line. Quarterback Joe Theismann launched a deep pass to receiver Art Monk, but 49ers cornerback Eric Wright was in his back pocket. When Monk attempted to catch the ball, Wright did make contact with him, but the ball was so overthrown that it should have been ruled uncatchable.

"It was a ball a 10-foot tall Boston Celtic couldn't catch, let alone a receiver," 49ers coach Bill Walsh complained after the game.

Instead, Wright was called for a pass interference penalty, placing the ball at San Francisco's 18-yard line. That was soon followed by a questionable-at-best holding call on safety Ronnie Lott, setting up Washington kicker Mark Moseley -- who had already missed four kicks on the day -- for a game-winning 25-yard field goal.

Moseley's kick was good, sending Washington to Super Bowl XVII.

2002 NFC Wild Card Game

One of the crazier games in 49ers history came down to the final seconds, and in this case, San Francisco certainly benefitted from a missed pass interference call that could have changed the outcome.

With the 49ers leading 39-38 in the final seconds, the New York Giants botched the snap on a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal attempt. Placeholder Matt Allen gathered the ball, rolled right and hoisted a dead bird towards San Francisco's end zone in desperation. Giants lineman Rich Seubert -- who had correctly reported as an eligible receiver -- appeared to be open.

[WATCH PLAY HERE]

Then 49ers defensive lineman Chike Okeafor hauled Seubert to the ground while the pass was still in the air. Penalty flags were thrown -- but not on Okeafor. Instead, they had ruled another Giants linemen an ineligible receiver. Had Okeafor also been called for a penalty, those would have offset, and the Giants would have had another shot at a field goal.

Instead, the 49ers declined the ineligible receiver penalty, and the game was over. San Francisco then advanced to the NFC Divisional Round, where they were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Days after the Wild Card game, the NFL declared that the officials had missed the pass interference call on Okeafor.

Super Bowl XLVII

The last time the 49ers were in the Super Bowl seems particularly relevant to the new rule change.

San Francisco trailed Baltimore 34-29 with 4:19 left in regulation, but marched to the Ravens' 7-yard line on a 33-yard scamper by running back Frank Gore, giving the 49ers a first-and-goal with a chance to take the lead with a touchdown.

On first down, running back LaMichael James rushed for two yards, pushing the ball to Baltimore's 5-yard line. Then, on second and third down, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw two incomplete passes intended for receiver Michael Crabtree, setting up fourth-and-goal.

[WATCH PLAY HERE]

Kaepernick went back to the same well on fourth down, but the pass intended for Crabtree in the right corner of the end zone fell incomplete once again, but not without some significant contact from Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

"There's no question in my mind that it was a pass interference, and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said following the game.

The officials saw it differently and ruled Smith's contact incidental. The 49ers turned the ball over on downs and never got it back, as the Ravens came away with a controversial Super Bowl victory.

49ers vs. Rams, Week 3, 2017

Controversial pass interference rulings happen during the regular season, too, and 49ers receiver Trent Taylor knows that quite well.

Trailing 41-39 to the rival Rams in the fourth quarter, the 49ers recovered an onside kick, giving them a chance to notch their first victory of the young season. The 49ers gained zero yards on the first two plays leading into the two-minute warning, but on third down, 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer found Taylor on an 11-yard out pattern along the left sideline. Taylor secured the catch, appearing to set the 49ers up with a chance for a game-winning field goal.

The officials, however, threw a flag on Taylor -- all 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds of him -- for offensive pass interference, ruling he pushed off of Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on his way to making the catch.

The contact was minimal at best -- the kind that happens on every single passing play -- and one has to wonder if it would have been overturned under the new rules.

The penalty moved the 49ers back to the Rams' 40-yard-line, facing a third-and-10. Hoyer then threw an incomplete pass before being sacked by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald on fourth down, clinching the victory for Los Angeles.

The 49ers wouldn't get their first win until Week 10.

NFL free agency winners and losers: Best, worst contract signings in 2019

NFL free agency winners and losers: Best, worst contract signings in 2019

Same faces, new places. Free agency can flip the powers in the NFL, and we might just be seeing that this offseason. 

Here in the Bay Area, the 49ers and Raiders have added a plethora of players through signings and trades.

The 49ers shored up their defense with linebacker Kwon Alexander and edge rusher Dee Ford. And running back Tevin Coleman has reunited with coach Kyle Shanahan. 

For the Raiders, it all started with trading for superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown, but they also gifted quarterback Derek Carr protection with offensive tackle Trent Brown and another weapon out wide in Tyrell Williams

Now, let's go around the rest of the league. Here are the winners and losers of free agency outside of the Bay Area. 

VIEW NFL FREE AGENCY WINNERS AND LOSERS HERE