After losing in Week 1 to the Chicago Bears, the San Francisco 49ers are in need of a win on Sunday when they face the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.
Coming out of this contest with a win is even more important when one considers that they will play the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams the following two weeks.
One factor in San Francisco’s collapse on Sunday in Chicago was the absence of tight end George Kittle, who was out with a groin injury.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan was hoping he would be able to return to practice this week, but as of Wednesday, it hasn’t happened.
However, Shanahan did say Kittle has made progress and is hoping he will be able to suit up and play this Sunday.
Shanahan on George Kittle: "He's made a lot of progress, so hopefully we'll have better luck this week"
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) September 14, 2022
Having him back will be critical for the 49ers’ efforts to start building momentum, especially during their contests against Denver and the Rams.
Kittle Gives San Francisco A Security Blanket
On Sunday, new starting quarterback Trey Lance had some decent success for just over two quarters in terms of finding his receivers, especially on short to intermediate-range passes, but his passing efficiency plunged afterward.
Kittle is about as reliable a receiving option as the Niners have.
He has made the Pro Bowl in three of the last four seasons, and his career 72.4 percent catch rate makes him a trustworthy option.
Last year, Kittle posted 910 receiving yards and six touchdowns despite missing three games.
Without him, defenses are able to bottle up San Francisco’s other receivers, especially when Deebo Samuel is lining up in the backfield and isn’t an option downfield.
If Kittle doesn’t play on Sunday, Lance has to do a better job of hitting his receivers in the right spots, but at the same time, his receivers have to do their job as well.
Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers’ top two wide receivers, only had two receptions each, and that number has to greatly increase, Kittle or no Kittle.
As a whole, the team had just 155 passing yards on Sunday, which ranked 30th in the NFL.
San Francisco may not be the most prolific passing team in the league, but it will not win anything ranking that low in that category.
The Seahawks Aren’t A Scary Defensive Team
Seattle has started a rebuilding process now that they have traded franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Broncos, and it is unlikely to reach the postseason this year.
Star linebacker Bobby Wagner also departed, leaving head coach Pete Carroll with a void on the defensive side of the football.
In their Monday Night Football win over the Broncos, the Seahawks allowed 330 passing yards, which was 30th in the league.
If Kittle does play on Sunday, this could be an area he could exploit.
Another angle of Trey Lance’s incompletion targeting Tyler Kroft. I thought it was a TD😩 pic.twitter.com/ca8kCfjX8w
— Travis Bell (@TravTheSav_) September 12, 2022
They combined for just two catches and 20 yards, and Lance missed Kroft on an early pass attempt that could’ve resulted in a touchdown.