49ers vs. Saints: 5 matchups San Francisco needs to exploit

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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George Kittle, 49ers
Tight end George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

No. 3: George Kittle vs. Vonn Bell

This 49ers season has been great to watch so far, but one of my favorite moments, among many, is the George Kittle versus Budda Baker matchup on Halloween night.

It featured the 49ers tight end calling out the Cardinals safety.

And then Kittle stiff-arming Baker into the turf to score a touchdown moments later:


I return us to this moment for one simple reason: Saints safety Vonn Bell is not Budda Baker. And while it may not be solely on Bell’s shoulders to silence the 49ers Pro Bowl tight end, you can be sure head coach Kyle Shanahan will look to get the most out of Kittle that he can, which includes trying to exploit Bell.

If the fourth-year safety out of Ohio State is the option for the Saints, his coverage grade from Pro Football Focus should get 49ers fans excited.

On 532 coverage snaps so far in 2019, he’s grade out at just 54.1, allowing receptions on 69.8 percent of the time when targeted. Bell has given up 30 receptions for 340 yards, including 117 yards after catch.

For a safety, especially one facing off against the best tight end in football, these numbers are very bad.

Kittle’s numbers haven’t been eye-popping this season, especially after his bonkers stats last year, but most of that is due to injuries keeping out of two games. He’s still an elite receiver and blocker (despite what PFF and Doug Gottlieb might say), who has yet to drop a ball this season on 66 targets.

Even if the Saints choose to double him, Kittle is still liable to find a way to impact the game, both as a receiver and in the run game.