Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Ravens await 49ers' ascending WR Crabtree
By Mike Sando
One year ago, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree voiced frustration over the opportunities available to him during an overtime defeat to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
Crabtree had finished that game with a single reception for 3 yards. No other 49ers wide receiver caught a pass that day.
"Sometimes you just gotta move the ball, man," Crabtree said from the losing locker room at Candlestick Park. "You gotta make plays. You gotta give people a chance to make plays."
Crabtree seemed to be blaming the play calling and/or quarterback Alex Smith. Mostly, he was frustrated after the most difficult defeat San Francisco had suffered in many years.
At the time, I blamed Crabtree's struggles more on the coverage Giants cornerback Corey Webster applied than on anything systemic. The way Crabtree has flourished recently with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback supports other theories.
Crabtree has 15 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games this season. He had five receptions for 28 yards and one score in two playoff games last season.
The chart compares San Francisco's overall production when targeting wide receivers in these playoffs versus the playoffs last season.
Having a more legitimate No. 2 receiver in Randy Moss has probably helped Crabtree. Injuries left the 49ers with Crabtree, Kyle Williams, Brett Swain and Joe Hastings as their only receivers in the NFC title game a year ago.
Having Kaepernick in the lineup seems to be working in Crabtree's favor. Crabtree has averaged an additional 29 yards receiving per game in Kaepernick's nine starts.
The 49ers' Super Bowl opponent, Baltimore, has been tough on opposing wideouts during the playoffs. Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady completed 53.2 percent of their passes with three touchdowns, four interceptions and a 64.3 NFL passer rating when targeting wide receivers against the Ravens this postseason.