George Kittle apparently had some added incentive to get back on the field for the 49ers‘ road game against the Cardinals. Kittle, who missed San Francisco’s previous six games with a fractured foot, caught four of five targets for 92 yards as the 49ers defeated the Cardinals, 20-12.
Along with helping the 49ers improve to 6-9 on the season, Kittle’s efforts put a dent in the Cardinals’ playoff hopes, as Arizona (8-7) no longer controls its own destiny in the race to secure the NFC’s seventh and final playoff spot. The Chicago Bears, who have won consecutive games following a six-game losing streak, are now in the driver’s seat to claim the NFC’s final playoff spot, a scenario that wasn’t lost on Kittle.
“Overall happy for the team,” Kittle said after the game. “I will say this, I did grow up a Bears fan, and the fact that we helped the Bears a little bit just made me a little happier. Da Bears!”
While his team will not get a chance to defend their NFC title, the 49ers’ championship mettle was on display on Saturday. Despite a laundry list of injuries, the 49ers received three touchdown passes from third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard, 183 rushing yards from Jeff Wilson, two touchdown receptions from fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and linebacker Fred Warner’s 14 tackles, a forced fumble and a key fourth-down pass breakup from linebacker Fred Warner. The 49ers also received several key catches from Kittle, whose 24 and 27-yard catches set up two of San Francisco’s three touchdowns.
“Kittle, we knew just dressing him out today would help a ton,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury. “What he was able to do statistically in pass game and as always in the run game, I can’t say enough about George.”
With the loss, the Cardinals will need a win over Rams in Week 17 and a Bears’ loss against the Jaguars or the Packers to make the playoffs. Chicago, after a 5-1 start, plummeted to 5-7 before posting consecutive wins over the Texans and Vikings. A big reason for the Bears’ turnaround has been the play of running back David Montgomery, who has rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games. Mitchell Trubisky has also had success since re-entering the starting lineup, as he has completed nearly 74% of his passes over the Bears’ last three games.
While his childhood team will try to clinch their second playoff berth in three years, Kittle’s current team will try to end the season on a positive note. San Francisco will finish the 2020 season against the Seahawks in a game that may determine who wins the AFC West.
“We’re not proud of our record,” Shanahan said. “We’d love to be better. But that doesn’t tell the story of who these guys are, what they’ve been through all year and how they give everything on game day.