Fast Connections, Week 15: Jimmy G surging with Kittle

This week's edition of Fast Connections focuses on several quarterbacks who have silenced doubters in recent weeks as well as the pass catchers that helped them do so.

Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

George Kittle established himself as one of the game's premier tight ends long before he put the 49ers and literally multiple defenders on his back during the final minute of last week's thrilling 48-46 victory over the Saints. A stalwart as a blocker in the run game and a gifted receiver, Kittle gives San Francisco a type of weapon that perhaps no other team has in the post-Rob Gronkowski era. Just try to imagine any other active player pulling off his game-saving 49-yard catch and run.

Kittle's return from a foot injury has coincided with perhaps the best three-game run of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's career. In that span, Garoppolo has completed 55 of 76 pass attempts for 767 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception. Not coincidentally, the 49ers won two of those contests and came within a score of the third. Each one pitted them against a team that has either clinched a playoff berth already or can do so in Week 15.

Next Gen Stats says ...

As Kittle's clutch reception against the Saints illustrated, the third-year tight end does considerable damage after the catch. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Kittle has a yards-after-catch success rate of 56.7%, best on the team. That exceeds the next highest mark on the 49ers by nearly 9 percentage points (Deebo Samuel, 47.8%).

Jared Goff and Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams

After a harrowing month of November that included zero touchdown passes, Jared Goff has begun to resemble the quarterback that helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl less than a year ago. In each of his last two games, the former No. 1 overall pick has completed more than 70 percent of his passes and thrown for two touchdowns and more than 290 yards. While not MVP-level numbers, Goff's play has forced the Rams back into the playoff conversation.

The Rams can also thank wide receiver Robert Woods for the late-season surge. Woods has gone on a tear the past two weeks, recording 20 catches for 270 yards and a score. While Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks have seen their roles diminished recently -- the two wideouts combined for just 47 snaps during last week's victory over the Seahawks -- Woods has become the go-to weapon in Los Angeles.

Next Gen Stats says ...

Though Woods hasn't produced like a Pro Bowl receiver all season, he has given his quarterback plenty of opportunities to connect. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Woods has created 3 yards or more of separation on 51.4% of his targets this year. Woods also has a good chance of creating yards after the catch, posting a YAC success rate of 48.6%.

Philip Rivers and Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Just two weeks ago, rumors swirled that veteran quarterback Philip Rivers could lose his starting job after tossing seven interceptions over a two-game stretch. Though Rivers didn't immediately change the narrative surrounding him, his performance against the Jaguars on Sunday put the benching talk to bed for now. He completed 72.8 percent of his throws for 314 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers, good for a career-best 154.4 passer rating. Not bad for a guy who celebrated his 38th birthday the same day.

Rivers' strong performance came with plenty of help. Big plays from tight end Hunter Henry and wide receiver Mike Williams turned into touchdowns, and the Chargers played with the lead the majority of the afternoon thanks to a stellar outing by the defense.

However, even on a career day for Rivers, no one shined brighter for Los Angeles than Austin Ekeler. The third-year back became the first Chargers player since Lionel James in 1985 to record 100 or more yards as a rusher and as a receiver in the same game. Eighty-four of those yards came on a screen pass that saw Ekeler run past the first block and then glide untouched to the end zone.

Next Gen Stats says ...

Because of Ekeler's impressive strength and ability to slip tackles, he creates a considerable number of yards after the catch. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, an incredible 96% of his receiving yardage has come after he has the ball in his hand, easily the highest figure on the Chargers among those with at least 35 targets.

-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is a fantasy analyst for Follow him on Twitter: *@by_JBH*

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