George Kittle fired up the 49ers with late play

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The 49ers took control of the race for the NFC West last night — and by virtue the top seed in the NFC playoffs — but something else happened as well.

George Kittle became a cult hero.

The 49ers tight end made the play of the day, fending off a facemask and attempt to tackle by Saints safety Marcus Williams, and carrying a few Saints 20 yards downfield to set up the game-winning field goal.

“Get as many yards as I can, and hold onto the damn football,” he said of his mindset, via Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America.

Oh, by the way it came on fourth-and-2, and gained 53 total yards, including the penalty.

“Most people would go down and complain to the refs about the facemask,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “He was like, I’m going to bully you all the way to the end zone or until you stop me. We don’t win the game without that play.”

Kittle, who has made plenty of plays this season, described it as “pretty fun.”

“Football’s the best thing in the world,” Kittle said. “What this means to us, what it means to the Saints, what it means to the fans, who were incredible. The team aspect of the game, the way everyone here feels like a part of something special . . . that’s what it is—special. Now, we’ve got 24 hours to celebrate this bad boy. Then we’re onto next week. I can’t wait to play more football back in San Francisco.”

They get to do that next week against the Falcons, and then host the Rams. Both secondaries are now on notice.