49ers TE Kittle emerging as strong target

Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Jahleel Addae (37) upends San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) after a short gain in the second quarter.Photo: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Kyle Shanahan: "He did a good job of getting open."

The San Francisco 49ers couldn't pull out the win in their first game minus quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday, but their offense was far from stagnant.

Quarterback C.J. Beathard threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns, though he was intercepted twice in a 29-27 loss to the Chargers. His favorite target was tight end George Kittle, who caught six passes for 125 yards.

Through four games, the second-year tight end, drafted in the fifth round, has 18 catches for 316 yards, an average of 17.6 yards per catch.

"I think he's been good since he got here," head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday. "He was a guy we were very surprised on that he fell to us in the draft. I thought he was one of our best players last year going into the season. He got banged up early on. ... He made it through and kept playing, but he wasn't moving the same way he started out."

In his rookie season, Kittle had 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns. He finished strong and it carried over into this season. With his former Iowa teammate Beathard back behind center due to Garoppolo's season-ending knee injury, the pair connected on six-of-eight targets in Sunday's loss.

"It's easier to hit people when they're real open, and he did a good job of getting open," Shanahan said. "We had an idea going into the game that he had a chance to have a big game."

Beathard and the 49ers (1-3) led 17-6 late in the second quarter before the Chargers scored 11 quick points. With Los Angeles ahead 26-17 late in the third quarter, Beathard and Kittle responded.

Kittle caught a pass over the middle and outran the Chargers secondary to complete an 82-yard touchdown reception, the longest by a tight end in the franchise's storied history.

"The O-Line gave (Beathard) enough time to move his eyes to the right, to the left and to come back to the right," Shanahan said. "So he moved the coverage well, which got Kittle open. He was wide open just by the coverage and the quarterback, then Kittle did a hell of a job making it into a touchdown."

The 49ers eventually took a 27-26 lead, but the Chargers pulled ahead on a field goal with 7:41 remaining and Beathard threw a late pick when he was hit as he was releasing the ball.

--LB Fred Warner finished with a game-high 10 tackles against the Chargers.

--T Joe Staley will be questionable this week versus the Arizona Cardinals. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan said Staley did not suffer a long-term injury.

--WR Dante Pettis, who suffered a knee injury in the first quarter against the Chargers, will miss multiple games.

--T Mike McGlinchey (knee) is questionable for Sunday's game against Arizona.

--WR Marquise Goodwin (thigh, hamstring) is questionable to play against Arizona.