Kittle’s monster performance lifts 49ers

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) stiff arms Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons (31) during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium.Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a rough year for the 49ers, but one bright spot has been the play of second-year tight end George Kittle.

In Sunday’s 20-14 victory over the Denver Broncos, Kittle came up big with seven catches for 210 yards and an 85-yard touchdown that broke his own record as the longest by a tight end in franchise history.

“George Kittle’s a hell of a player and he took some 10-yard plays the distance today,” said Broncos linebacker Von Miller. “There’s not too many tight ends in the league that can do that. We knew coming into the game that he was going to be talented. We knew coming into the game he was going to make plays, but the plays that he made today he just killed us. … He just killed us.”

Kittle has been doing it all year. He entered Sunday needing 73 yards to break Vernon Davis’ team record for receiving yards by a tight end (965).

He got that and much more, becoming the first tight end in franchise history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. He now has 69 catches for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns for the season.

“He deserves everything he’s getting,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said. “He deserves to be a Pro Bowler this year. He’s been arguably the best tight end this year, no disrespect to (Kansas City’s Travis) Kelce or (New England’s Rob) Gronk(owski) or those other guys who are playing good football, but to be a second-year player playing the way he is — he makes an impact in every game. He’s our No. 1 receiver.”

But Kittle could have had more Sunday. He did all of the damage in the first two quarters and then was silenced, not catching a single pass the rest of the game. He wound up finishing just five yards short of breaking the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end in a game set 16 years ago by Shannon Sharpe (214).

“Coach (Kyle) Shanahan has already apologized twice to me for not getting me the ball, so I’ll just put the blame on him,” the 49ers’ 2017 fifth-round pick said. “It’s OK. The fact that we got the win is all I care about.”

–QB Nick Mullens completed 20 of 33 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and an interception Sunday. After five career starts, Mullens is averaging 295.8 passing yards per game and has a 93.5 passer rating.

–TE George Kittle is putting up wide receiver numbers this season. He became the first Niners tight end to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark and he now has 69 catches for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns.

–RB Jeff Wilson had a career day Sunday, rushing for 90 yards on 23 attempts.

–WR Dante Pettis caught a 1-yard touchdown Sunday. He now has five touchdown catches this year, a team record for a rookie receiver.

–CB D.J. Reed started in place of the injured K’Waun Williams and had a game-high 12 tackles and his first career sack.