George Kittle was a nonfactor for the 49ers in the passing game through the first six games of the season.
He had 18 catches for 216 yards and three touchdowns (all in one game). And in a game where the 49ers lost Deebo Samuel against the Browns, all Kittle had was one catch for one yard. You would think that would be the game where the 49ers would want him to be featured.
I guess it is better late than never as Kittle has finally found his stride in the 49ers offense. In his last four games, he has tallied 25 catches for 432 yards and two touchdowns. Kittle has come alive at last, so what has been the reason for that? Well, I have always speculated that Kyle Shanahan was withholding Kittle until midseason. That is because Kittle can be injury prone when he plays a receiving role. It's typically where he has sustained most of his injuries and not as a blocker.
So, Shanahan was looking to limit Kittle until midseason to give him that second half of the season push for the playoffs. That is where the 49ers actually need Kittle the most. By using him heavily in the first half of the season, they run the risk of him getting battered and having to deal with it the rest of the way. It wouldn't be the first time that has happened. Kittle has been beat up going into the playoffs before and that has hurt the 49ers. Perhaps the 49ers were trying something different this year since they have the talent to get by some games without him being a feature player.
“Honestly, when George just strings together healthy weeks it's always just a matter of time for him," said Shanahan. "George does so much in the run game and the pass game, the way he plays every now and then he gets some setbacks, which take him back a little bit. It makes it a little harder for him to practice and things. But once he gets healthy and can get a few weeks in a row, it always takes care of itself. George is so explosive and consistent at what he does.
"We went into that game not sure how many opportunities he would get and he ended up getting more than anybody. You're not just looking at the openers or anything thinking that by any means. You don't really think that with any of our guys. It's pretty balanced and you just see where the coverages take it. But the way George plays, the way our offense is and how things tie into the run and the pass game together and how good George is that it's usually something we don't have to force, it's just a matter of time.”
The 49ers offense has started to play perfectly balanced football on offense coming out of the Bye week. Every star player on offense is being involved and it is making a major impact. The 49ers are also not being stubborn running the football so much with Christian McCaffrey. This offense is clicking right now and it is partly due to the involvement of Kittle again as a feature player.