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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Kyle Madson

The 5 George Kittle catches you meet in the divisional playoffs

The 49ers’ defense was the tip of the spear that led San Francisco to its divisional playoff win over the Cowboys on Sunday, but tight end George Kittle did his part on the other side of the ball.

Kittle, the unquestioned offensive star of the game for the 49ers, posted five catches for 95 yards on five targets. It was the best postseason performance of his career, and he was in the middle of virtually every key offensive moment for San Francisco. Four of his five catches were significant, and another non-catch jumps out as perhaps the turning point of Sunday’s showdown at Levi’s Stadium.

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Here are the five (but technically four) George Kittle catches you meet in the divisional playoffs:

The Opener

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Quarter: 1
Time: 8:31
Play start: SF 30
Down-and-distance: First-and-10

After a three-and-out on their first drive that netted only three yards, the 49ers finally found a little breathing room on their second possession. A Deebo Samuel run sandwiched between two Christian McCaffrey carries gave the 49ers their first first down of the game. On that first down, QB Brock Purdy looked for Kittle streaking down the right side where he had a step on Cowboys DB Daron Bland. Purdy delivered a strike to his star TE that went for 31 yards and put San Francisco at the Dallas 39 with a fresh set of downs. The 49ers ultimately punted on a fourth-and-9 from Dallas’ 38, but the big completion to Kittle helped open up San Francisco’s offense and flip the field in the home team’s favor.


The Juggler

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Quarter: 3
Time: 5:19
Play start: SF 21
Down-and-distance: First-and-10

The 49ers went three-and-out after Dallas knotted the game at 9-9 with a field goal. San Francisco’s defense got them the ball back though for what turned into the 49ers’ only touchdown drive of the game. After an offsides penalty on the Cowboys and a seven-yard pickup on the ground by McCaffrey, the 49ers were out of the shadow of their own goal post with four downs to work with.

They tried a play action look with a fake toss right and Purdy rolling back left. Everything was covered until Kittle leaked into the middle of the field where nobody else was. Purdy found the improvising tight end and sailed the throw just a little. Kittle managed to get a hand on it and then tipped it to himself, off his own helmet, and into his hands as he avoided a big shot from a Cowboys DB. The 30-yard snag got the 49ers into Dallas territory where they’d go on to punch in their only TD of the contest.

The Penalty

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Quarter: 3
Time: 1:03
Play start: DAL 20
Down-and-distance: Third-and-8

Admittedly, this one isn’t a catch, but it was a huge play involving the 49ers’ TE and a fifth play really made the bit with the title work, so we’re rolling with it.

Purdy took a sack on a third down with the clock winding toward one minute to go in the third quarter. Had the sack held up, the 49ers would’ve settled for a field goal that gave them a precarious 12-9 lead. Kittle’s work down the field drew a penalty that wiped out a huge play for Dallas’ defense.

Matched up one-on-one with Bland, Kittle made a move that forced the Dallas DB to drag him to the ground for an easy defensive holding call. That negated the sack, left the 49ers’ field goal team on the sideline, and gave San Francisco a new set of downs. They’d go on to score their only touchdown three plays later. On a 10-play, 91-yard drive, Kittle’s juggling catch and the penalty he drew were the two biggest plays.


The Comforter

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Quarter: 4
Time: 11:03
Play start: SF 25
Down-and-distance: First-and-10

Another big first down for the 49ers came up after Dallas kicked a field goal that made it a 16-12 49ers lead with the clock staggering toward the 10-minute mark in the final frame. On a series where the 49ers needed to keep the clock running and come away with points, Purdy got the offense settled in by going to his tight end. Kittle got open between the hashes again and Purdy calmly delivered a strike to him for 17 yards. With Dallas’ defense on its heels, the 49ers unwound 7:59 off the clock while kicking a field goal that put them up 19-12. That’s the kind of series that can rapidly get sideways, but Purdy looking for his favorite target to begin the series set the wheels in motion for another San Francisco scoring drive.

The Closer

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Quarter: 4
Time: 2:05
Play start: SF 30
Down-and-distance: First-and-10

Kittle’s final catch of the game helped seal the win for the 49ers. They took a Dallas punt with 2:05 remaining and had virtually a free play from a clock perspective. That allowed Shanahan to dial up a pass since an incompletion still would’ve gotten them to the two-minute warning. However, an incompletion would’ve made things tougher for the 49ers in their quest to either run out the clock or put Dallas’ offense in a nigh impossible position. Purdy in a key spot looked again for Kittle, who was open on a quick five-yard slant. However, Kittle wasn’t done. He barreled ahead for 11 more yards to give San Francisco a 16-yard gain and a first-and-10 after the two-minute warning.

The 49ers ultimately punted, but Kittle’s fifth grab allowed them to run the clock to 51 seconds while making Dallas burn all their timeouts. They did not score on their final possession and San Francisco took home another postseason win.

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