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Kittle buoys 49ers offense with another 100-yard performance despite groin injury

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LOS ANGELES – Jimmy Garoppolo wrapped up another 49ers win with a nod to his favorite target, George Kittle.

“George is an animal,” Garoppolo began. “He’s an interesting individual. I don’t know what he does on a daily basis. But you’ve just got to tip your hat to him.”

Garoppolo just had to get the ball to Kittle on Sunday to get the offense going, a predictable scenario but one that fell in doubt when Kittle tweaked his groin at Friday’s practice.

Kittle produced 103 receiving yards in the undefeated 49ers’ 20-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams, catching all eight passes when he was officially targeted by Garoppolo, whose interception actually was intended for Kittle but instead assigned as a target to Deebo Samuel.

Did Kittle have any doubt he’d play?

“No chance,” Kittle responded. “Like I said, this is a game I had on my calendar for a year. I haven’t liked the way we played against them the last two years. This is a ‘dub’ we needed to get.”

The 49ers (5-0) play again on the road next Sunday, when they visit Washington (1-5).

Kittle is not planning on taking the game off to get healthier.

“You kidding me? Come on now,” Kittle said.

As for the severity of his injury, “It is what it is,” Kittle added. “I play football, so it’s all right.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan noticed the injury might be straining Kittle, however, so his playing time diminished as the minutes expired from the 49ers’ second-half burst.

“He was grinding out the whole game,” Shanahan said. “You could tell he was hobbling at the end, so we got him out.”

Before he got out, Kittle provided many memorable moments, and one that might get overlooked was his block that helped spring Tevin Coleman’s 2-ayrd touchdown run as the 49ers tied it at 7.

His highlight-reel play was a 45-yard reception in which he spun off two defenders and eventually was dragged down by four Rams at the 6-yard line.

“You just find space and slash,” Kittle said. “That’s all we talk about, trying to get YAC (yards after catch). I like YAC, it’s my favorite thing out there. It was just an easy corner route, cut it a little short and just found open space.”

Garoppolo has grown to rely on Kittle as a real playmaker, a rarity from the tight end position.

“George is just one of those guys, you get him the ball in space, he’s going to make guys miss, he’s going to make big plays for you,” Garoppolo added.

Three snaps later, Garoppolo tried getting Kittle his second touchdown in as many games, only to see the Rams maul Kittle in the end zone, allowing Marcus Peters to make an interception.

Kittle dismissed it as a bad play on an otherwise great day, one made more spectacular by the huge presence of 49ers fans. “Our fans showed up today. You could feel it the entire game. It made it feel like a home game.”


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