San Francisco 49ers

Longtime teammates Beathard, Kittle provide punch in 49ers’ listless performance

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) runs past Denver Broncos safety Orion Stewart on a touchdown reception during the second half of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) runs past Denver Broncos safety Orion Stewart on a touchdown reception during the second half of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif. AP

Tight end George Kittle was like the kid watching from the window with a fever as his friends have a snowball fight outside.

Last week in Kansas City Kittle was stuck on the sideline with a tender hamstring while the rest of the 49ers' rookie class -- from Solomon Thomas to Reuben Foster to C.J. Beathard -- made strong NFL debuts.

On Saturday, Kittle took out any pent-up frustration on the Broncos.

The fifth-round draft pick connected with Beathard, his quarterback last season at Iowa, for a five-yard catch in the second quarter. Then in the third, he caught a perfectly placed pass from Beathard in stride. Kittle turned up field, bulldozed a Broncos cornerback at the 12-yard line, then stiff-armed a safety at the 3 before crossing the goal line.

"I came out of that first tackle kind of surprised I was still in bounds," Kittle said in front of his locker after the game. "I kept going and I was like, 'Oh, wow, I'm in the end zone.'"

"He does a great job after the catch making guys miss," Beathard said on the other side of the locker room. "He trucked a guy and ran over a guy to get into the end zone. It was a great run after the catch and a great job by him."

The 29-yard touchdown was the 49ers' only offensive score in their 33-14 loss, and it perhaps provided a glimpse of the future.

While Beathard was the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback against the Chiefs, he was the first one off the bench against Denver as coaches decide whether he or Matt Barkley will be Brian Hoyer's understudy to start the season.

Beathard finished 7-12 for 110 yards with a 116.7 passer rating. Barkley was 1-2 for 10 yards after entering midway through the fourth quarter. One of his few series was cut short when a Broncos defensive lineman broke across the line of scrimmage, disrupted a handoff attempt to tailback Joe Williams and recovered the fumble.

Barkley has no touchdowns in two preseason games; Beathard has three, as well as a successful two-point conversion last week. Kittle, meanwhile, seemed on his way toward securing a prominent -- if not a starting -- spot in the 49ers offense before his hamstring injury struck early in training camp. Vance McDonald has started the last two games at his position, but it appears the rookie still has an opportunity to gain ground.

Beathard's most impressive trait so far this preseason may be that he seems comfortable and very unlike a rookie.

Kittle said that calm demeanor masks what he called "the most competitive person I've ever met in my entire life."

"And that's about anything," Kittle said. "He will get extremely upset over a ping pong game. Playing video games -- he gets upset over anything. So in a game, if he makes one mistake it really upsets him. But he's pretty quick to cool off."

The duo connected on six touchdowns in 2015 in Iowa's run-heavy offense. That dropped to four scores last year as Kittle dealt with a foot injury for part of he season. But he noted he had two in his and Beathard's "senior day" game against Nebraska, their last home game for the Hawkeyes.

One area in which their chemistry is lacking: touchdown celebrations. Kittle said Beathard nearly went to the ground when he arrived to congratulate the tight end on his touchdown.

"Tried to stop before I got to him and almost ate it," Beathard said with a smile.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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