When the San Francisco 49ers travel to Arizona later this week for their Monday Night Football matchup with the Buffalo Bills, they could be without two of their top players.
Per NinersWire, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan made it seem like he wasn’t expecting either tight end George Kittle or quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to make an appearance on Monday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
“Yeah, I’m holding out hope for Jimmy for the last couple of weeks, same with Kittle,” Shanahan said, per NinersWire. “I think they’re in a similar boat with that and that’s not guaranteed. It’s how they react over here the next couple of weeks, but they’re just starting to get into where they can get on the field and not with us, but on their own and do some stuff. That’s hopefully going to be the last couple of weeks, whether it’s two games or one game or none.”
Garoppolo, the former New England Patriots quarterback behind Tom Brady, suffered a sprained ankle against the New York Jets in the second game of the season. He returned against the Miami Dolphins in Week 5 and played four straight games before suffering another ankle sprain against the Seattle Seahawks.
Kittle has been in and out of the 49ers lineup this season as well with multiple injuries. He missed two games early on this season before suffering a right foot fracture against the Seahawks in Week 8.
Although he hasn’t played in San Francisco’s past three games, Kittle still leads the 49ers in receiving yards.
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What Their Absence Means For the Buffalo Bills
In this situation, Kittle’s absence means much more than Garoppolo’s.
Kittle is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. In his first four seasons in the NFL, Kittle has caught 253 passes for 3,419 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also garnered over 80 targets the past two seasons and was named a First-Team All-Pro last season.
His absence from Monday Night’s matchup means the Bills can put even more focus on the 49ers running game and getting to backup quarterback Nick Mullens.
Mullens has played in seven games this season and has done well as Garoppolo’s backup. He’s thrown for 1,642 yards and six touchdowns but he has also thrown six interceptions and has been sacked 13 times.
With the way the Bills defense has played as of late, getting to Mullens and stopping the run will be crucial in their matchup.
Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk leads the 49ers in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 446 receiving yards. Kendrick Bourne, who has 412 receiving yards, is the only other receiver that has recorded more than 400 receiving yards this season.
Off To Arizona For A Second Time
Back on Nov. 15, the Bills made the trip out west to play the Arizona Cardinals and they ended up losing on a 43-yard hail mary pass from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins as time expired.
KYLER MURRAY HAIL MARY TO DEANDRE HOPKINS🚀
— PFF (@PFF) November 16, 2020
The loss left a bad taste in their mouth and now the Bills are headed back west. Although they suffered that difficult loss, McDermott knows it’s not going to affect his players.
“We’re playing the 49ers, one game does affect another game,” McDermott said during his press conference on Monday. “We’re focused on the 49ers and continuing to grow as an offense, defense, and special teams unit.”
The 49ers were forced to find a new home field after Santa Clara County released new COVID-19 restrictions that banned all contact sports in the county.