Heading into Week 13, the San Francisco 49ers are preparing to face the St. Louis Rams. It will be the Niners’ fourth divisional game this season, and second against the Rams, concluding their 2012 series. One of the players to watch this week will be wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
In four games in 2010-2011, Crabtree had 20 catches for 365 yards and 5 touchdowns. Through his career, the four-year pro has made a mockery of the Rams defense, helping the Niners secure division wins.
However, there are two new cornerbacks in St. Louis this year in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. In the team’s first match-up against the Rams this year, Jenkins was deactivated due to a rule violation. In Crabtree’s first match versus the Rams in 2012, he finished with 5 receptions for 70 yards and a TD.
Finnegan and Jenkins are both expected to be active this Sunday. Both are very talented cover corners with great awareness and ball skills. Crabtree can anticipate seeing Finnegan and Jenkins during the game, but Crabtree will get his opportunity to get his hands on the football. With new signal-caller Colin Kaepernick behind center, there is going to be some more risk-taking and explosion from the passing game.
With Crabtree being the undisputed No. 1 WR in an offense that often rotates, he seems to have the best chance for success going forward. And it’s no mystery that he’s a favorite of the coaching staff, as he’s kept dozens of offensive drives alive, converting 23 first downs in 11 games.
Greg Roman found time to gush about No. 15 in this week’s presser:
"Well, Michael’s a really good football player. Mike’s got great hands. I think Coach [Harbaugh] said he’s got the best hands he’s ever seen. We marvel at his hands every day in practice. He’s a natural catcher; we can’t take credit for that…The guy after the catch is just running with a purpose and a mission. He’s gotten us several first downs just by running tough. He’s a good all-around player that continues to improve. He’s still young in this league and we’re counting on him to get better all the time."
The Rams should have their hands full with Crabtree this Sunday. That hard running is going to be fueled by that blemish on the team’s 2012 record – the dreaded tie.
It will be interesting to see how Kaepernick, 25, and Crabtree, 25, develop with one another. Both were highly regarded players coming out of college. In this duo we have one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history as well as one of the most dynamic receivers college football has ever seen.
But Finnegan and Jenkins are no push-overs; this should be a highly competitive contest in itself.