Falcons hope to avoid having 49ers star George Kittle steamroll them

Alex Didion

George Kittle cemented his status as one of the NFL's top tight ends in Week 14, as the third-year pass-catcher put the 49ers in position to win a wild game in New Orleans with a Marshawn Lynch-esque "Beastmode" run after catch to set up Robbie Gould's walk-off 30-yard field goal.

As Week 15 comes into focus, and the Atlanta Falcons prepare to take the field at Levi's Stadium, their defense is locked in on their top priority: Slowing down Kittle.

"He's really aggressive after the catch," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think that's the yards per catch. Sometimes you see that in man-to-man where he beats the guy and he's going to play aggressively to break a tackle. He's had good yards after contact."

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"They have a tight end that is playing as well as any tight end in the NFL right now," linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said. "He's a matchup problem for the small athletic guys. A matchup problem for the big, but not as fast guys." 

Kittle has backed up his breakout sophomore campaign in 2018 with another phenomenal season. Despite missing two games due to injury, Kittle is fourth among tight ends in catches and receiving yards, and currently has a higher Pro Football Focus grade (93.6) than former Patriots standout Rob Gronkowski ever put together over a season.

Where the 26-year-old Kittle truly thrives -- as Quinn noted -- is after the catch. Over the past two seasons, he blows away all NFL pass-catchers in yards after catch per reception (8.8). The next closest over that span? Giants tight end Evan Engram, with 7.2.

Atlanta's defense can consult their division rival Saints, who needed three defensive backs and a facemask penalty to bring Kittle down on the game-clinching penultimate play.

[RELATED: Stat proves 49ers star Kittle indeed is strong run blocker]

The Falcons, who have gotten back on track recently after a disastrous start to the season, know it will take an army to slow down the 49ers' most dynamic player.

"You'll have different guys guarding him," Quinn said. "When you have a good player like that, it's not usually one-man assignment."

Falcons hope to avoid having 49ers star George Kittle steamroll them originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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