George Kittle had two chances at a touchdown on his favorite holiday, “National Tight End Day,” but he didn’t end up scoring.
That’s just fine with him, of course, because the 49ers had their most dominant win of the season Sunday, throttling the Carolina Panthers 51-13.
“I really enjoyed it,” Kittle said. “There is still a couple of football games left, so tight ends are going to have more opportunities to score and make big plays. I can’t wait to go home and watch all of that.”
Kittle had a first-quarter touchdown negated by an offensive pass interference penalty on rookie receiver Deebo Samuel. He also could have scored in the third quarter but was interfered with by former 49ers safety Eric Reid. San Francisco had five rushing touchdowns and the defense logged six sacks, including three from rookie Nick Bosa and two more from Arik Armstead.
Aside from the lopsided victory, the highlight of Kittle’s day was getting to hang out with a childhood icon, former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who came to the Bay Area this week to film an episode of his NFL Network Show and feature Kittle on his holiday.
“I grew up watching him,” said Kittle, who was born in Wisconsin. “He’s always been one of my favorite players. The joy we play with, I feel like we are similar in that regard. To be able to talk to him is an honor and oh yeah, I am a fanboy.”
The first 30,000 fans at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday received Kittle bobbleheads, one of which went to Favre that Kittle autographed. In return, Favre gave Kittle two signed Packers jerseys, one for his friend nicknamed “Sauce” and another for a special place in Kittle’s home.
Kittle led San Francisco with six catches on seven targets for 86 yards. The first might have been a sign things were going the 49ers’ way.
On the 49ers’ first third down of their opening drive, Jimmy Garoppolo (18 of 22, 175 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 111.2 rating) tried throwing a slant to Kendrick Bourne. Panthers cornerback James Bradberry tipped the ball in the air and it went right to Kittle, who got seven yards to convert the third and 5.
Kittle and Garoppolo have been perfect on third down this season, with Kittle catching all 15 throws to him on third down, according to ESPN, with 11 of those catches going for first downs.
Favre said he hadn’t been to a game in person in years, and he was especially impressed with San Francisco’s defense, which had three interceptions of quarterback Kyle Allen, who came into Sunday without an interception in his previous four starts.
“They’re good,” Favre said. “Really good.”
Emmanuel Sanders impresses in first game since trade
The 49ers made sure to work new receiver Emmanuel Sanders into the game plan quickly. He has two receptions on the opening drive, which fell under Kyle Shanahan’s scripted plays, and scored a four-yard touchdown, his third of the season and first since Week 2.
Sanders was asked after the game about his new team hanging 50 points on Carolina’s stout defense.
“All wekk the energy has been so positive here,” Sanders said. “This locker room is just amazing with a great group of players, and great personalities around here. I showed up today expecting the same results in personality. I will never forget ggoing out into the tunnel with these guys. Everybody was laughing and smiling. I was like, man, this is football, this is fun. I’m blessed to be here.”
Sanders had 25 yards on four catches on five targets. The one incompletion came when Garoppolo airmailed a throw toward the left sideline on that opening possession. But he made up for it by fitting in a tight throw to the left slot for Sanders’ touchdown.
The 49ers traded for Sanders on Tuesday, giving him less than a week to get familiar with the offense. It worked out well because Sanders played for Broncos coordinator Rich Scangarello, who was San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach the past two seasons.
“He was great all week,” Shanahan said. “Just for a receiver to get here on a Tuesday night and the way he looked in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It helped give him a head start, just having a little familiarity with the offense, being in Denver. But still, a lot of new stuff and a lot of different words and everything. He was a true pro, he crammed it in right away. Even when guys cram stuff in, you never know in the heat of the battle if they’re going to resort to how they used to know it. Emmanuel didn’t make any mistakes. It was a helluva first game for him and he’ll continue to get better learning out stuff.”
▪ The 49ers dealt with injuries to two running backs, Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson Jr. Breida sustained an ankle injury during the last play of the first half and didn’t return. Wilson had a stinger and was checked for a head injury. It was determined he did not have a concussion, Shanahan said.
The 49ers will have updates on Breida and Wilson during their next media availability on Tuesday.