We can put a bow on George Kittle's 2018 season, which stands as one of the best campaigns ever put together by an NFL tight end. Kittle posted nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17 to give him a grand total of 88 catches, 1,377 yards and five touchdowns on the year.
His 88 receptions are a 49ers single-season record for a tight end (previously Eric Johnson at 82). The yardage total is an NFL single-season record.
Let's dive into the second one. Going into the 49ers final drive on Sunday, Kittle needed 22 yards for the record. He'd already passed Rob Gronkowski's previous mark (set in 2011) earlier in the second half, but Travis Kelce had also surpassed the old record on Sunday. A 43-yard touchdown reception gave Kittle the record in style. Here's the official record book for most single-season receiving yards by an NFL tight end: Kittle at 1,377 yards, Kelce at 1,336 yards and Gronkowski at 1,327 yards.
"It hasn't hit me yet, but it's definitely exciting," Kittle said postgame. "It wasn't just me. We had three quarterbacks throwing the ball. It's a credit to the whole team continuing to grind."
The 49ers lost the game to the Rams, 48-32, ending the season with a 4-12 record and securing the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. But all of that, at least on Sunday, is just a footnote to Kittle's record-breaking season.
Kittle's last-minute chase for the yardage record reminded everyone of the Denver Broncos game earlier in December. He racked up 210 yards in the first half and needed just five yards in the second half to set the NFL's single-game record by a tight end. Unfortunately, Kittle was blanked in the second half and missed out on history. This time around, Shanahan seemed determined to force-feed the second-year tight end. Shanahan called the right plays, Nick Mullens made a few pinpoint throws and Kittle did the rest.
Entering Sunday, Kittle also trailed Christian McCaffrey by 64 yards after the catch for the most YAC in the NFL. McCaffrey finished with just one reception for 22 yards in Week 17, which means that it's likely that Kittle leapfrogged into first place in that category as well. Leading the entire NFL in yards after the catch, combined with the single-season yardage mark for a tight end is truly unprecedented production.
Kittle has certainly flourished into a franchise cornerstone as the 49ers enter the offseason looking to get healthy and improve the overall roster.