Hawkeyes in the NFL Week 1: George Kittle, Anthony Hitchens Shine

September 11, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

The San Francisco 49ers knew they were up against it Sunday when they headed into Minnesota for the season opener. The Vikings boast one of the league’s best defenses.

The final score reflected that with the home team winning, 24-16. And while the Minnesota defense did what it needed to do, San Francisco left town knowing mistakes cost it.

“It is a good defense, but we have a good offense,” former Hawkeye and current 49er tight end George Kittle told 49ers.com after the game.

“We have a great coach calling the plays. He is putting us in position to make those big plays and I think those are plays we need to make. If we make them it is a totally different outcome. Yes, they are a good defense, but I also think we’re a good offense.”

Kittle enjoyed a good day, for the most part. He led his team with five receptions for 90 yards. He was targeted nine times and dropped a deep ball early in the third quarter with his team trailing 17-3. Minnesota turned a Pick Six on the next play.

“Misjudged it,” Kittle told the Associated Press. “Thought it was a little closer to me. Probably ran a bit too far with my arms out. Just a bad play.”

It’s important note that Kittle didn’t throw the Pick Six and was his team’s leading offensive threat. That bodes well for he and the 49ers moving forward.

Riley Reiff started at left offensive tackle for the Vikings. Jaleel Johnson saw snaps as Minnesota’s backup nose tackle.

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More news from the former Hawkeyes around the league in Week 1:

-Anthony Hitchens rewarded the Chiefs for believing in him this offseason. The free agent linebacker from Dallas recorded a game-high 15 tackles Sunday as Kansas City topped San Diego, 38-28. The Ohio product posted seven solo stops and two for loss. His 15 tackles were the most by anyone in the NFL during Week 1.

On the losing end in that game, Chargers defensive back Desmond King, the ’15 Thorpe Award winner at Iowa, ranked second for his outfit with five tackles (all solo) and added a pass defended.

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-Many eyes around the state of Iowa were focused on Green Bay Sunday night when the Packers played host to rival Chicago. The Hawkeyes were well represented in that primetime contest.

During Green Bay’s 24-23, come-from-behind victory, defensive tackle Mike Daniels was credited with three solo tackles. He also sacked the quarterback once and recorded another hit on him. Former Hawkeye cornerback Josh Jackson also racked up three solo tackles and a tackle for loss in his NFL debut.

It was a tough start for right offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga against Bears edge rusher extraordinaire, Kahlil Mack, but he played much better after halftime, when hobbled quarterback Aaron Rodgers need it most.

“It’s just a matter of getting settled in, especially against a guy like that,” Bulaga told Packers.com. “Once we got into the second half, I got a little more comfortable with the technique I was trying to use on him and kind of settled into the ballgame a little bit more, and was able to execute the plan that I had in my head going forward.”

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After a lot of buzz in the preseason, rookie offensive lineman James Daniels, 21, did not play for the Bears. Coach Matt Nagy said recently that the former Hawkeye center needed to improve his recognition of fronts and blitzes. He also wanted to see him play with better leverage.

-New England opened its season with a 28-20 victory against Houston on Sunday. Former Hawkeye defensive end Adrian Clayborn was credited with two quarterback hits.

-Underdog Cleveland finished in a 21-21 tie with Pittsburgh on Sunday. Linebacker Christian Kirksey recorded five tackles, three of which were solo stops. The former Iowa standout also defended a pass.

-It was not a good day for Buffalo. Baltimore pounded the Bills, 47-3. Former Hawkeye Micah Hyde did post three tackles (2 solo) in defeat. Offensive guard Marshal Yanda returned from injury last year to help the Ravens put up 369 yards.

-Washington got off to a good start with its new quarterback-running back combination of Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson. The Redskins totaled 429 yards of offense with Brandon Scherff a part of an outstanding day for the line.

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