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49ers Rookie Kittle carries team on crucial fourth-quarter drive, makes case for larger role



Rookie tight end George Kittle emerged from the 49ers’ locker room in Indianapolis after yet another close loss, and was greeted by his family – all decked out in Colts’ blue.

“I got to see all my cousins, they were wearing Colts stuff,” said Kittle, who partially grew up in nearby Ohio. “They can do better than that.”

It provided a rare moment of levity in what’s turned out to be a dismal 0-5 start to begin the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch era. However, if the 49ers want to cite a positive in their second straight overtime defeat, it’s Kittle

He could be a find as a fifth-round pick from Iowa. Kittle caught seven passes in nine targets for 83 yards and a crucial 5-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

During that drive, Kittle hauled in 5 passes for 64 yards, but none more impressive than his 5-yard scoring pass, when he carried safety Malik Hooker on his back into the end zone.

“I am so proud of George,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said on the KNBR postgame show. “They put a lot on his plate.”

Juszczyk also said that he had no concern that Kittle would score on the play.

“All I did was, I caught it, tried to find the goal line, and made sure the guy hit me and tried to absorb it as much as I could and make sure my knee didn’t go down,” said Kittle who dove to the goal line with the 212-pound Hooker on his back.

As with most players in the 49ers’ mistake marred 26-23 overtime loss, Kittle wasn’t perfect. He failed to hang onto a 10-yard, third-pass to the end zone on the opening drive. Going into the game, Kittle struggled with drops, which wasn’t the case on the final march of regulation.

Nevertheless, the football brain thrust looks good by taking Kittle, and then keeping him over veteran options, including Vance McDonald. In August, the team dealt McDonald to Pittsburgh, opening the way for Kittle to take center stage at tight end.