The Eagles’ Dallas Goedert and Niners’ George Kittle excel at a valued position in the NFL. Both made huge plays to help their teams win in the divisional round last weekend.
How they perform in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at the Linc might determine who goes onto the Super Bowl, where they might play against the league’s best in the Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
CAN’T STOP GOEDERT
Dallas Goedert lined up in the left slot, thinking the ball was coming to him. It was the third play of the divisional playoff game against the Giants. The play before, Jalen Hurts connected with DeVonta Smith for a 40-yard gain.
“It’s always big to start fast. I love when I can touch the ball early,” Goedert said.
Goedert took eight quick strides toward the left sideline and Hurts delivered the pass.
Goedert made the catch and turned upfield. Giants cornerback Adoree Jackson arrived to make the tackle. He got a thump on the helmet, instead, as Goedert gave Jackson a thunderous stiff arm.
Goedert continued with a 9-yard gain to the Giants’ 24.
“When I face up against a [defensive back], I try to stiff-arm him every time,” Goedert said. “They’re too small, they can’t reach. I landed one that I’ve been waiting to land for a while.
“Whenever I get the ball I just want to punish whoever’s trying to tackle me. When I get in, my mentality is to find the end zone.”
Five plays later, Hurts returned to his tight end, who made a one-handed catch. Goedert lowered his shoulder and blasted his way past Giants safety Julian Love for a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Eagles lead.
“To make the one-handed catch with the left hand, the non-dominant hand, that’s pretty impressive considering the ball was probably already in the air,” Hurts said after the 38-7 Eagles victory.
“It’s a big-time play and we need our big-time players to make big-time plays … down this stretch.”
MEANWHILE, IN SANTA CLARA …
Kittle knew the 49ers needed a big play. They were tied with the Cowboys, 9-9, with about five minutes to play in the third quarter.
He knew he wasn’t the first option on the first-and-10 play from the Niners’ 21-yard line. Turns out, he wasn’t the second option, either.
Kittle blocked a Cowboys player, saw the play breaking down and cut toward the middle of the field. The pass from rookie Brock Purdy was slightly overthrown, but Kittle reached out and speared it with his right hand.
At full speed, the ball bounced off Kittle’s hand, his face mask, and his hands twice more before he snared it for a 30-yard gain. A few plays later, the Niners scored their only touchdown of the 19-12 victory.
“We needed something,” Purdy told the media after the game. “We needed a spark to get the ball rolling.”
It truly was one of the best catches of the season by anyone and at a most crucial time.
The modern tight end is a unique specimen of size, speed and athleticism. They block. They catch. The gain yards after the catch.
- Kittle is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds.
- Goedert is 6-foot-5, 256 pounds.
These are big men and they aren’t slow.
Kittle, a second-team All-Pro selection this season, has made the Pro Bowl four times. He caught five passes for a team-high 95 yards against Dallas — valuable catches and yards in a hard-fought, defensive struggle. For the season, he had 60 catches for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Goedert caught five passes for 58 yards against the Giants. He missed five games with a shoulder injury. Before the injury, he was on track for his first Pro Bowl.
Goedert finished the season with 55 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns. He is one of the best blockers — on the line and downfield — in the league.
“When I get it, I try to make plays,” Goedert said. “I think that stiff-arm got some energy on our team. But I think our team was ready to go with or without that.”
OUT OF THE GATE
Coming off a bye, the Eagles were looking for a quick start and dominance over the Giants. Their opening drive went 75 yards in eight plays — Goedert having a hand in two of the series’ big plays.
“Dallas has been able to do great things this whole entire time,” Hurts said.
“The physicality he plays with, how he came out there. He does that all the time. He’s trying to punish somebody. He’s not trying to spare no man.
“He’s trying to apply pressure to ’em. Definitely trace a lot of energy and enthusiasm [to him].”
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni all season has talked about how his passing attack goes through his two 1,000-yard wide receivers and Goedert. Some weeks, it’s A.J. Brown’s turn, another week it’s Smith and some weeks it’s Goedert.
“It was Dallas’ turn early,” Sirianni said. “He made a great play [on the one-handed touchdown catch].
“He’s tough to tackle. He is really tough to tackle. He’s a big man. I wouldn’t want to try to tackle him.”