No. 3: Tight end George Kittle
On their first offensive play of the game, the 49ers called a fairly pedestrian running play to the left for running back Tevin Coleman. The play proved not only to be a precursor for how difficult it would be to gain yards on the ground all night, but also nearly scared Warren Sharp and Niner fans everywhere half to death
George Kittle took Cardinals linebacker Terrell Suggs’ helmet to the knee and was immediately taken out and moved into the medical tent. It was truly the scariest moment of Halloween night.
But Kittle has proven himself to be many things in his tenure as a 49er so far, and one of them is incredibly tough, a trait which proved valuable on Thursday. He came back on the next series after testing out the knee. And after struggling a bit to get going, ended up doing this to Cardinals safety Budda Baker:
Kittle finished his game with six catches on eight targets (both misses were excellent plays by Baker, who was all over the field all night) for 79 yards and that touchdown. His final Pro Football Focus grade (91.1 overall) once again has him among the NFL’s elite, even if his run blocking (47.1) didn’t grade out as well as it has throughout the season (although a holding call that negated a touchdown likely played into that).
Even better, Kittle remains one of the league’s great characters:
His presence on the field is always something opposing defenses have to monitor, even on a bum knee, something the Cardinals learned quite well on Thursday.
But his newest teammate, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, is certainly making Kittle’s life easier in the passing game.