Sporting a shirt with a shirtless Jimmy Garoppolo, autographed by Jimmy G and all, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle was waiting for a special moment to showcase his new piece of memorabilia to the media.

As it turned out, earning the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIV was such a moment.

The Niners upended the Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the 2020 NFC Championship game, completely dominating the ground game and allowing the Packers to do little more than stage a brief second-half comeback, which turned out to be far too little, too late.

"Honestly, it hasn't really hit me yet," Kittle told reporters after the game. "I'm pretty excited. I think tonight's going to be pretty fun. But overall, I'm just so happy."

Kittle and Garoppolo didn't need to be huge X-factors for San Francisco's offense, at least on the stat sheet. Garoppolo attempted just eight passes during the win, while Kittle caught just one pass for 19 yards. Those who didn't watch the game might argue they weren't contributors. But by contrasting with running back Raheem Mostert's 220 rush yards and four touchdowns, there was little reason for Garoppolo and Kittle to spike the numbers game.

Especially for Kittle,who didn't hesitate to recall the tougher days of 2017 and 2018, when the 49ers won a combined 10 games over head coach Kyle Shanahan's first two years.

"Ever since my rookie year, just the hard work," Kittle continued. "Coach Shanahan and the three years, saying every single day, 'we're this close and we just have to get over it.'

"It all finally came to this season. We had ups and downs, injuries left and right. Guys stepped up when they needed to."

In the NFC Championship game, it was Mostert who stepped up a ton. But Kittle, along with San Francisco's offensive line, should also get credit for stepping up, too. After all, they were able to take advantage of a Packers defense, which appeared to be giving up run gaps in an attempt to take away the explosive pass plays the Niners used against them back in Week 12 in the regular season.

"The San Francisco 49ers threw eight passes and the rest were runs," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams added after the game. "The first rule of football is to stop the run, and we weren't able to do that."

And Kittle joked, after finding out his offense had 42 run attempts, he thought it would have been possible to get 50. During their divisional-round win over the Minnesota Vikings the week prior, the Niners managed 47 rushes.

Either way, the 49ers controlled the game on the ground. For the passing stat geeks, it hurt. But Kittle doesn't care whatsoever.
  • Peter Panacy
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    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.