© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Antone Exum disregarded his defensive assignment because he wanted to see George Kittle break an NFL record.
In the fourth quarter of San Francisco’s 48-32 loss to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Exum blitzed on a fourth-and-4 with fewer than three minutes remaining. He was not supposed to, but he gambled for Kittle’s sake. Exum made a tackle for loss, giving the 49ers offense the ball and Kittle an opportunity to make history.
Kittle needed nine receiving yards to break Travis Kelce’s all-time single season record for yardage by a tight end. Kittle subsequently caught an eight-yard pass to put him within one yard. One play later, he ripped off a 43-yard touchdown to fittingly give him the record.
“It’s not an individual award, like the whole year, the offense has to help, defense has to help, special teams has to help,” Kittle said Monday. “It’s all year long, everyone working together. Definitely my favorite part was seeing the sideline erupt — pretty special moment.”
Members of the 49ers public relations staff had updated Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers coaching staff of Kittle’s proximity to the record. The game had already been determined. The Rams jumped out to a 28-3 lead in the second quarter and cruised thereafter.
All eyes focused on Kittle throughout the second half. His accomplishment, at least for a moment, wiped away the taste of a lopsided loss to end the season.
“Everyone on the bench was yelling for it and stopping them on that fourth down,” Shanahan said Monday. “It was a big moment. It was a bad feeling. There wasn’t much to be happy with, but when the guys saw that, you see that energy turn up and watch them fight to give Kittle that opportunity. It was such a good feeling to give Kittle what he deserved. But, he couldn’t have done it without the defense, too. Everyone really enjoyed that and felt good about it.”
49ers staff to coach in Senior Bowl
Shanahan and the 49ers coaching staff will coach the South team in the Senior Bowl Jan. 26. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and his staff will coach the North side. They were chosen because the coaches of the NFL teams with the lowest winning percentages are selected for the Senior Bowl. The Cardinals and Jets were not selected because their head coaches were fired after their season finales. The coaching staffs have to remain intact to be picked.
Shanahans said he isn’t proud he is coaching in his third Senior Bowl, but he finds value in interacting with some of the country’s top prospects. This year, that includes Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen, a popular name associated with the 49ers at the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
“It’s the same thing as the Combine to me,” Shanahan said. “It’s not as much about the players. It’s not about the athletes and stuff because you can see that on tape pretty well. You can see that when we work them out. It’s about being around people. It’s hard in the interview process to fully get to know someone. It’s hard to get tricked when you’re with someone for seven straight days. That’s my experience and what I’ve gotten the most out of it. You know that group of guys better.”
Tomlinson avoids major injury
Laken Tomlinson was carted off the field in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss after he took an awkward fall. The 49ers feared Tomlinson, the 49ers left guard who has not missed a snap throughout the past two seasons, tore his ACL.
Fortunately, results showed that Tomlinson tore his MCL, not his ACL. The recovery timeline for an MCL is about three months, which means Tomlinson should be good to go by OTAs in May.
Armstead played through broken hand
49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead played through part of Week 16 and Week 17 with a fractured hand, according to the Sacramento Bee’s Chris Biderman.
Arik Armstead said he fractured his right hand in the Chicago game and played through it with a club yesterday. Unsure if he’ll need surgery. #49ers
— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) December 31, 2018