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49ers TE George Kittle not sorry for 'stealing' touchdown from WR Ray-Ray McCloud as his chemistry with QB Brock Purdy develops

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Stan Szeto - USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto – USA TODAY Sports

49ers tight end George Kittle left a football version of a lump of coal in one of his teammate’s socks on Saturday, and he doesn’t seem the least bit sorry for doing so.

Kittle caught two touchdown passes in the 49ers’ 37-20 win over the Washington Commanders on Saturday, but the first wasn’t supposed to go to him at all. It was intended for a wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloudbut Kittle dived and took it, giving him a 34-yard touchdown that put the 49ers up 14-7 over the Commanders early in the third quarter.

Video from the play shows Kittle and McCloud both running to where Purdy threw the ball, but Kittle beat McCloud to the play, while McCloud wondered where Kittle was from and what he was doing.

Kittle, McCloud, Purdy and head coach Kyle Shanahan all told the same story after the game – that the game was set up to go to McCloud and practiced for McCloud, but Kittle saw an opening and went there. Kittle openly admitted after the game that he (in his own words) had “squealed” McCloud on the play, but he seemed completely okay with it.

“I think I’ve had five touchdowns taken away by penalties, so I’m going to get them as soon as they’re available,” Kittle said.

Shanahan told reporters Kittle “intercepted” McCloud’s pass and thankfully McCloud didn’t try to do the same.

“Kittle is supposed to cross the field,” Shanahan said. “Ray-Ray is supposed to run a post. The midfield was wide open. Kittle’s natural reaction was to go to very open places. I think that’s probably why Brock hesitated for a second – because that just looked weird with two guys. But he let it rip anyway. I’m just glad Ray-Ray didn’t try to intercept him then.

The touchdown would have been the second of the game for McCloud, who scored on a 71-yard run in the first half. But he had no problem with Kittle getting the score and made the wise decision not to compete with Kittle for the pass and maybe break up a big play.

‘I saw it a little early, so I was like ‘Damn George, where are you going?’ But he was a little bit closer to me so I wasn’t going to jump on him to get him and then the ball is everywhere,” McCloud said in his post-match media session. “But as I l I said, I’m a team guy. It’s not me who wins. And that’s all it’s about – getting that W at the end of the day.”

The video shows McCloud wrapping his arms around Kittle after the catch, which Kittle initially thought was a defender trying to play with the ball. But Kittle quickly found out it was McCloud and from there he made it clear he was sorry/not sorry for being the one to get the touchdown.

“When it went over my shoulder, I thought it was security trying to get the ball out,” Kittle said. “That really scared me. Then he was in my ear saying, ‘You stole my touchdown. I was like, ‘Ahh, my bad’ – not really.”

Kittle finished Saturday’s game with six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. It was the best statistical performance of the year for Kittle, who had 10 catches for 213 yards and four touchdowns over the past two games after going through a drought for much of the middle of the season. Kittle’s performances over the past two weeks suggest he is building a solid relationship with Purdy, who has made a point of involving Kittle in the offense since taking over the injured. Jimmy Garoppolo December 4.

“He told me he was going to feed me and he does,” Kittle said. “He just gave us the ball. He’s great with the football. He puts it on target. He lets guys run with it. He’s super savvy in the backfield, makes guys miss. I don’t know why wouldn’t he. He’s playing really well. I think he’s got a really good command of that attack.

Purdy said on Saturday he knew Kittle had the ability to score on any catch, which is why he made sure to keep Kittle in mind whenever he was able to make a play. .

“He makes my job easy,” Purdy said. “He wins man-to-man clashes. Obviously his speed and everything, you just give the ball to the dude, he’ll take off. George is extremely explosive – more than people realize. He does a great job with the construction sites.” after acceptance. So that’s where my mindset is – whatever play we’ve made I’m going to watch my progress, but I know if I give the ball to George it can be an explosive (play) . “

The connection between Purdy and Kittle is a case of pitfalls, at least considering the two went to rival schools (Iowa State for Purdy, Iowa for Kittle). The two of them joked about that rivalry on Saturday, saying Kittle might have had a late-game third touchdown if they hadn’t gone to rival colleges.

“I will say if he hadn’t gone to Iowa State he would have led me in the last play and it would have been a touchdown, but I’m going to drop that one because it’s Christmas,” Kittle said. But bless his heart, he plays at such a high level.

Purdy said, “I wish he had caught that third touchdown. I threw it a little short but I can’t get a Hawkeye too many touchdowns in a game.”

But Kittle and Purdy are clearly on the same page right now, which is great news for the 49ers as they head into the playoffs. Kittle has been a positive presence for Purdy and the other players off the court, and in recent weeks he has reminded everyone of what he is capable of when given his chances.

“Kittle’s energy and what he brings to the team every day, what he just says to the team and everything to keep it all loose – I feel like when (there are) times when we feel tense and whatever, Kittle is like the guy to put a smile on your face and say, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good,'” Purdy said. have in our locker room. It brings energy and good vibes to everyone. Honestly, I feel like he’s bringing us back to a zone of good play. That’s what he does, and I think he’s the best in the NFL with his personality and stuff like that too, so we love George.”

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