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Home » George Kittle’s Spectacular Reception Leads 49ers to Win

George Kittle’s Spectacular Reception Leads 49ers to Win

23 January 2023, Monday
Desperate for a boost to their stifling offense, the San Francisco 49ers got exactly what they were after from an unexpected source late in the third quarter of a deadlocked game against the Dallas Cowboys. With 5:19 on the clock, quarterback Brock Purdy unleashed a pass to the left side, initially targeting wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk on a crossing route before progressing down the line to Deebo Samuel and finally settling on fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the flat.

Purdy had no other options available, so he kept his head up and found George Kittle running down the middle. When Kittle noticed Purdy, he waved his right arm to get his attention. Purdy responded by throwing the ball in front of Kittle, who then used his right hand to deflect it back to himself. Miraculously, he was able to grab the ball with both hands before it reached the ground and before Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs could tackle him.

After the game, Purdy joked and claimed that Kittle was bobbling the ball around for almost 10 seconds, according to Kittle, that was done on purpose.

"I was going for the dramatics," said Kittle, chuckling. "It was for TV. I wanted to add some exciting flair and get the ratings up, that's what we're here for."

The play resulted in a 30-yard gain and set up the 49ers' first touchdown drive a few plays later.

"That was incredible," exclaimed Christian McCaffrey, the running back for the 49ers. "That has to be one of the best catches I've ever seen! We have a truly special player here doing extraordinary things. Plays like that just ignite the crowd and motivate us further."

This big play came at the ideal moment, as McCaffrey scored a 2-yard run in the beginning of the fourth quarter which ultimately provided the winning points in the Niners' 19-12 victory over the Cowboys.

The win marked San Francisco's 12th in a row and secured them a spot in the NFC championship game, where they will travel to Philadelphia next weekend to face the Eagles.

Kittle had a career-best performance during the playoffs with five catches for 95 yards, the most receptions for a 49ers tight end in a playoff game since Vernon Davis had 104 in Super Bowl XLVII. This was also the highest number of receiving yards Kittle had ever recorded in the playoffs, surpassing the 63 yards he gained in a divisional round victory against the Green Bay Packers previous year.

The speedy connection between him and Purdy has been evident ever since the latter assumed the reins in Week 14. During the seven games since then, Kittle has snagged 29 receptions for 425 yards and seven touchdowns.

It was no surprise that Kittle's greatest achievement of the day came on a play he was not even a factor in. He said, "I'm not in the read at all. Brock is a great QB who keeps his eyes up when the play starts to unravel and his first and second choices weren't open, so for him to look back and spot my white glove hand for the ball, that shows his excellent quarterbacking."

Kittle faced a tough trial against Dallas's defense, who led the league in quarterback pressure rate, when Purdy had to confront them on Sunday. It was the most pressured he had ever been, with 14 times.

On 14 attempts from the pocket, Purdy was 3-of-10 for 24 yards, taking two sacks. Meanwhile, when given time, Purdy was 16-of-19 for 190 yards with no turnovers; the only San Francisco giveaway was on a fumble from a punt return.

Purdy became the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 200 yards without any interceptions in a playoff game prior to this season. On Sunday, he achieved the feat for the second consecutive week and the San Francisco 49ers' two takeaways allowed them to move to 15-0 in games where they lead in turnovers. Purdy commented on his accomplishment, saying, "In the NFL and particularly in playoff games, you can't afford to be throwing the ball carelessly or fumbling. With so much at stake, everyone is playing their best and every drive has meaning."

Against the Eagles next week, Purdy will become the fifth rookie quarterback to have started a conference championship game in NFL history, following Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez. Of those five, only Purdy, Flacco and Sanchez have won multiple playoff starts as rookie quarterbacks.

At every turn, Purdy's peers in the NFL have gained admiration for the manner in which he has handled important scenarios as the last pick of the 2022 NFL draft.

It's obvious when you see him day in and day out - from how he prepares to how he practices to how he performs in games, McCaffrey commented. He's so composed and confident in the huddle, it's just who he is now and he doesn't surprise me anymore.

Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will be in for a difficult test when they come up against the Philadelphia Eagles, who ended the season with the most sacks and yielded the lowest amount of yards per play. Following the victory on Sunday, coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear that the team isn't in a celebratory mood yet, admitting, "We've been here before, it's very hard to get here. We're not really reflecting on anything yet. We've got a big game this week, and that's not our ultimate goal, either. So, in order to do that we've got to make sure we take care of business."

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