Pitts 1st rookie TE to reach 1K yards in 60 years

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Kyle Pitts has been breaking Atlanta Falcons records for the past couple of weeks. Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, he hit an NFL milestone, becoming the first rookie tight end in 60 years to top 1,000 yards.

Pitts accomplished this on a 61-yard play where he caught a pass from Matt Ryan over the middle, turned upfield and ran past two defenders to help set up a second-quarter touchdown. On the play, Pitts not only eclipsed 1,000 yards, he also became the Atlanta Falcons’ all-time leading rookie receiver, breaking a decade-old record held by Julio Jones.

At the end of the first half, Pitts had 1,018 yards receiving — 58 yards shy of Mike Ditka’s rookie tight end receiving mark of 1,076 yards set in 1961. Pitts became the second tight end in NFL history to eclipse 1,000 yards.

“I feel like I’m doing a lot pretty fast,” Pitts said recently. “But Coach [Arthur] Smith is helping me along the way and Matt and all the people around me just being able to keep achieving more goals to try and break different things is something I like to do.”

Pitts marveled last month about reaching 1,000 yards — something he thought “might be a little tough” at the start of the year. But through most of the season he’s been consistent. He’s had nine games of 50 yards or more receiving and three 100-yard games. He’s been targeted five or more times in all but one game this season.

The only real question for him has been reaching the end zone, where he only has one touchdown this season. But everywhere else, the 21-year-old has been a difference-maker for Atlanta.

Last week against Detroit, Pitts passed Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in Falcons history from a tight end. Last month, he became the first rookie Pro Bowl tight end since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.

It’s all been part of a standout first season for Pitts, who was the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft, making him the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history.

“He’s been exactly who we thought he was,” Smith said recently. “He’s impacted games immensely. Even [when] the ball hasn’t found his way.

“He’s not even scratching the surface.”

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