Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

George Kittleā€™s big-time catch: The turning point for the 49ers against the Cowboys

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 22, 2023 at 8:40 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in a close game, winning to the score of 19-12 after their defense created multiple stops at the end of the game.

The game was tight for the entire 60 minutes, with a Brett Maher field goal tying the score at 9-9 with 9:06 remaining in the third quarter.

For the remainder of the quarter, neither team gained much offensive momentum, but one play ultimately turned the ship for the 49ers, leading them to a touchdown that occurred to begin the 4th quarter: a Brock Purdy to George Kittle dime from an off-schedule play.

Purdy had initially faked a handoff before rolling to his left, but to his dismay, both of San Francisco's top reads on the play, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were well-covered.

However, on the backside, tight end George Kittle realized this and immediately saw an opening over the middle of the field that was created by the movement from Aiyuk and Samuel, and turned upfield.

Moving his eyes to the backside of the play, Purdy found Kittle streaking over the middle and hit him in stride for 30 yards, setting the 49ers up at midfield with momentum, where they ended up scoring on a 10-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that lasted six minutes long.

"It was a bootleg," Kittle explained. "Me and Juice [fullback Kyle Juszczyk] are on the backside selling the outside zone away to get the defensive end to cross our face. Juice is the hot guy. We were trying to get the ball to I think it was either Aiyuk, Deebo or Juice. I'm literally not even in the read so I just saw kind of a space. He hadn't thrown it yet so I was just going up the field. He gave me a catchable ball and I was just trying to be dramatic. Just for TV, man."

Prior to that, the 49ers had punted and muffed a punt on their two opportunities in the second half, and quarterback Brock Purdy sensed the importance for an explosive play.

"We needed a spark to get the ball rolling and for Kittle to make a play like that, you just feel it in the whole stadium like, 'Man, that felt good to get a big gain like that and get us going,'" said Purdy. "Props to Kittle. He was one of our last options on that play, but he kept the play alive by feeling space. I got my eyes back and he was there. It was awesome."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan stressed the importance of explosives when jumpstarting an offense postgame, praising Purdy for sticking with the play and making the downfield pass.

"Explosives can jumpstart you better than anything," Shanahan said. "He definitely wasn't the primary [read] on that and they defended it very well. Brock came back to the back side and [George] Kittle saw an opening and went down there. Brock let it rip. [It was a] hell of a job seeing him in that spot and then Kittle made a hell of a catch."

The 49ers' fullback was impressed by the Purdy-to-Kittle play.

"I had probably the best view out of anybody on the field," Juszczyk said. "I was probably like 10 yards away from him, right there. It was incredible. I'm not surprised. He's had a lot of incredible catches but that one was big for us. We needed that. "

Following that drive, the 49ers never let up their lead again, as they forced a punt before scoring a field goal on their ensuing possession, providing San Francisco with a seven-point lead, which they held for the duration of the game.

With the win, the 49ers will travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday, which will be the third time they've reached the stage in the past four years, and sixth in the past 12 seasons.

Kirk Larrabee contributed quotes to this article.

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