George Kittle’s “amazing” catch sparked a 49ers victory

Santa Clara, Calif. — Desperate for a spark on an offense that for most of the first three quarters couldn’t solve the Dallas Cowboys defense, the San Francisco 49ers finally got exactly what they needed from a player who wasn’t really a factor in the playcall.

With 5:19 left in the third quarter of Sunday’s playoff game, the Niners quarterback Brooke Purdy I rolled to his left with the intent of hitting a wide receiver Brandon Ayuk on the way to cross. If it wasn’t there, the ball should have gone far Debo Samuel Further down the left side. And if that wasn’t available, Purdy was supposed to find a defender Kyle Joczek in the apartment.

With none of those options opening, Purdy kept his eyes down, put his feet up and saw a tight end George Keitel Middle highlight. Kettle waved a right hand at Birdie, who spotted him and threw it in front of his tight end.

Keitel reached out with a right hand and deflected the ball to himself, it bounced off his face mask and he reached back with both hands to pull it in before it hit the ground and the Cowboys into the cornerback. Trevon Diggs You can achieve great success.

After the game, Purdy joked that it appeared Kettle was bobbing on the ball for about 10 seconds. It was by design, according to Keitel.

“I was just trying to be dramatic,” Keitel said, laughing. “It was just for the TV. I was trying to be a little dramatic, raise the ratings. That’s what we’re here for.”

The play ran for 30 yards and led to the Niners’ first touchdown of the game eight plays later.

“That was unbelievable,” San Francisco whispered Christian McCaffrey He said. “It was one of the best moments I’ve ever seen. He’s a special player who does special things. He plays like that for sure to build momentum.”

It was exactly the quick start the 49ers needed at a crucial moment, as McCaffrey had a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to provide the winning points in San Francisco’s 19-12 win over the Cowboys. .

It was the Niners’ 12th consecutive win and earned them a ticket to their third NFC Championship appearance in four seasons, as they travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles next Sunday.

For Kettle, this was the biggest highlight of his best playoff performance. He finished with five on the most receiving yards for 95 yards, the most by a Niners in a playoff game since Vernon Davis had 104 yards in Super Bowl XLVII during the 2012 campaign. Kettle, eclipsing the 63 yards he had in the divisional drive against the Green Bay Packers last year.

Kittle and Purdy have had rushing chemistry since Purdy took over in Week 14. In those seven games, Kittle has 29 receptions for 425 yards and seven touchdowns.

Given this connection, it was not surprising that his biggest plays of the day were in a play in which he was not supposed to be an option.

“I’m not into reading at all,” Kettle said. “Brock is a good quarterback who rolls his eyes up when the play breaks down and his number one and number two aren’t open, so he looks inside to see a white gloved hand fly up and give me a shot on the ball, that’s just really good quarterback play.”

On Sunday, Purdy faced the toughest test of his young career against a Dallas defense that has led the NFL in quarterback pressure percentage this season. That continued into the game, as Purdy was pressured 14 times, the most of his NFL career.

On those 14 touchdowns, Purdy was 3 of 10 for 24 yards and sacked twice. But when Purdy had time, he was 16-of-19 for 190 yards. Most importantly, Purdy and the offense didn’t turn the ball over, with the only giveaway coming from San Francisco on a fumbled punt return.

Prior to this season, never had a rookie quarterback throw for 200+ yards and no interceptions in a playoff game. Purdy did it Sunday for the second time in as many weeks, and the Niners had two quick serves as they improved to 15-0 on the season when they won a turnover battle. “Playoff football, any NFL game really, you can’t afford to throw the ball up or fumble or anything like that, of course,” Purdy said. “But when there’s so much at stake and you know everyone is going to play their best, every ride and every moment counts.”

Against the Eagles next week, Purdy will become the fifth rookie quarterback in NFL history to start a conference championship game, joining Sean King, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flaco and Mark Sanchez. Purdy, Flacco, and Sanchez are the only rookie quarterbacks to win multiple playoff appearances.

With each passing week, Birdie’s teammates continue to marvel at how ready the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft is at crucial moments.

“You see that every day in the way he prepares and you see that in practice and games,” McCaffrey said. “He was just an impressive guy for being around at the rally. So, I’m not shocked anymore. He’s just who he is now.”

The tests wouldn’t be any easier for Purdy and the Niners against a Philadelphia team that led the league in sacks and yards per game. That’s why Coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of his team were so quick to turn the page after Sunday’s win.

“We’ve been here before,” Shanahan said. “It’s very difficult to get here. We’re not thinking about anything yet. We’ve got a big game this week, and that’s not our end goal either. So, in order to do that, we definitely have to do business.”

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