49ers' George Kittle is a Clutch Blocker Too

Standout TE ranked among NFL’s best late in close games as much for blocking as receiving

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When people point to George Kittle as perhaps the best tight end in football, there are multiple reasons.

First, of course, is his prowess as a receiver. The 49ers standout has had 173 receptions over the past two seasons for nearly 2,500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kittle not only makes catches, but makes big yardage once he gets his hands on the ball.

Second, is his blocking ability.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is a ferocious blocker who can not only neutralize a defender at the line of scrimmage, but can make a difference at the second level to help spring a running back or receiver for a big gain.

In fact, Kittle is an old-school-type tight end who enjoys bowling over a defender as much as making a 20-yard catch.

“Everyone knows what he’s done in the pass game, but he has never once in three years come up o me during a game and said, ‘Hey I need this route,’ or, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters earlier this year. “He’s never once come up to me about a pass play, but he comes up to me about every seven plays about what type of run play we need to do, who we need to allow him to hit, things like that. It makes it every fun to call plays for him.”

Kittle’s overall performance especially comes into play in the fourth quarter or overtime, as both a receiver or blocker. Recently, Ben Linsey of the analytic website Pro Football Focus included Kittle on PFF’s All-Clutch Team performers late in games.

Linsey cited Kittle’s position-high 113 yards after the catch late in games, an average of 8.7 yards after each reception, and four missed tackles forced.

Linsey also pointed to Kittle’s blocking prowess: “His run-blocking grade in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games ranked second at that position among qualifiers – a throwback when it comes to a tight end position that has shifted more towards big slot receivers in recent years.”

Kittle, in fact, said in January during the playoffs, that, “I take pride in my run game. That’s how I grade myself in games. Passing yards and receiving yards take care of themselves. I take pride in it (blocking).”

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