Crabtree making strides on and off field for 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Michael Crabtree realizes the moment he starts thinking about just how much zip is coming on each pass from Colin Kaepernick, that's when he might wind up missing the ball.
And he hasn't been doing much missing lately.
This playmaking, go-to tandem is on quite a roll for the San Francisco 49ers, and they are determined to keep it that way right into February.
These two sure have been making things look easy ever since Kaepernick took over as starting quarterback for San Francisco midseason in place of Alex Smith. Coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the offense are counting on more of the same for the No. 2 seed Niners (11-4-1) in Saturday night's divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park.
"We've been here before," Crabtree said. "Last year we came up a little short. I feel like I've got a little chip on my shoulder right now and I can't wait to go back out there for the playoffs. Big stage, big game for us as an offense and defense and special teams."
Crabtree has left his forgettable playoffs of last season in the past, producing a career year that showed everybody why the 49ers selected him 10th overall in the 2009 draft with the belief he would quickly emerge as an elite NFL wide receiver.
Not that Crabtree cares to discuss any of that. He is counting down the minutes until kickoff Saturday.
He finished with career highs of nine touchdowns, 85 catches and 1,105 yards this season. Crabtree also had five TDs and 30 catches on third-down plays — both stats among the top five in the NFL.
"That's Texas Tech Crabtree," running back Frank Gore said. "It's not surprising. Just a healthy Crabtree."
He has grown up a bit since his college days, when he couldn't shed the "diva" tag wherever he went. He has learned by watching Randy Moss, on the field and off. From running routes to working out.
It seems so long ago that Crabtree was angrily confronted by tight end Vernon Davis during an early September practice two years ago, and then-coach Mike Singletary had to step between them. There have been no such known issues since, and Davis has supported him.
"If we can continue to get Crabtree involved and he can help us the way he did last week, then I'm all for it," said Davis, whose role has diminished.
Crabtree led the team in catches (72) and yards receiving last season (874). While he had four catches for 25 yards and a 4-yard touchdown reception in a 36-32 victory against Drew Brees and the favored Saints in last season's NFC divisional playoffs, it was the NFC championship game Crabtree remembers as a most disappointing day.
San Francisco's receivers had just one catch for 3 yards — yes, it was by him — and Crabtree was targeted four times in a 20-17 overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
He's not one to reflect on why San Francisco fell short.
"Just feel like that was last year. I don't really know what happened," Crabtree said. "We were just talking about opportunity and I said something about that after the game last year and I meant it, you know? Because I'm a football player, this is what I do for a living, and I love it."
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