49ers top play No. 3
Kittle capped off his historic sophomore season with a record-breaking reception in our No. 3 top play of 2018.
Kittle began Week 17 with two records in his sights: former Niner Eric Johnson‘s franchise record for receptions by a tight end in a season, and New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski‘s NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end in a season.
Kittle would break the first record early in the contest, but breaking the second record proved to be more challenging after Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce bypassed Gronkowski’s mark during the game. Kittle would end up the victor, but not until the 49ers’ final offensive play of 2018.
After being peppered with targets as the contest neared its end, Kittle needed just three yards to set the new NFL record — so everyone, including each of the Los Angeles Rams’ defenders, knew where the ball was going on second down.
And Shanahan knew the Rams wouldn’t make it easy on Kittle. Los Angeles’ coaching staff had done everything they could to stop Kittle from breaking the NFL record, including keeping the Rams’ offense on the field on fourth down on the previous series in an attempt to keep the ball out of the 49ers’ hands.
Wide receiver Richie James initially lined up wide of the formation but motioned close to the tight end prior to the snap, which opened up the left flat for Kittle. Rams cornerback Sam Shields attempted to jump Kittle’s short out route, but was too late on the throw to break up the pass, which Kittle caught two yards from the line-of-scrimmage, and one yard from the NFL record books.