The 49ers had nothing to play for but draft position. But they had George Kittle, and that was enough.
Sparked by an incredible game from their second-year tight end, the 49ers beat the Broncos 20-14, which could knock them out of the top spot in the 2019 NFL Draft order. At least for the moment.
Kittle had seven catches for 210 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone, and though he didn’t add to that in the second half (only targeted once more), he helped stake the 49ers to a lead they wouldn’t give up.
Quarterback Nick Mullens was a more-or-less-OK 20-of-33 for 332 yards, two touchdowns and an interceptions, and was able to find just enough non-Kittles in the second half to keep the clock moving. But they gave the Broncos one chance too many by taking a knee too soon, allowing one final play but there would be no Miami-style miracle.
The Broncos played with a sense of desperation, which was reasonable. They went for seven fourth downs, making two of them, and closed the margin late to make it interesting.
The loss was a brutal one for the Broncos in a recent run of them.
And at 6-7, they fell out of the knot of 7-6 teams in the AFC (Dolphins, Ravens, Colts, and Titans) jockeying for the final wild card spot.