Michael Crabtree dominates in 49ers division-clinching win

USA TODAY Sports

We break down Michael Crabtree's dominant performance in the 49ers 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals

The San Francisco 49ers handled their business Sunday afternoon, claiming a 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The offense struggled early on, but the Colin Kaepernick-Michael Crabtree turned things around in a fairly huge way. A wide receiver needs a quarterback to throw him the ball, but Michael Crabtree deserves a ton of credit as he continues to be a machine on third and fourth down.

After the slow start, the offense finally got things going midway through the second quarter. Prior to the eight minute mark of the second, Kaepernick and Crabtree had connected on one pass for 17 yards through four offensive series. On the fifth series, that changed. On the first play of the drive, Kaepernick connected with Crabtree on a 31-yard pass that took the 49ers out to midfield. On the next play, Crabtree completely spun around Patrick Peterson en route to a 49-yard touchdown pass.

The 49-yard catch was big for getting the 49ers a lead they would not give up, but it was also big from an historical context. Crabtree surpassed 1,000 yards, becoming the first 49ers receiver to do so since Terrell Owens in 2003, and the ninth 49ers receiver in franchise history.

Crabtree's day was only getting started, as he would wrap up the day with eight receptions for 172 yards and to touchdowns. For the regular season, he finishes up with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards nd nine touchdowns. All of those are career highs as Michael Crabtree continues to progress and develop into a dominant receiver for the 49ers. And doing it against Patrick Peterson, who has become his personal punching bag, is all the better

After the game, Crabtree and Kaepernick tag-teamed the press conference, as they were brought to the podium together. In that press conference (transcript below), Crabtree was asked "how does it feel to wrap up a career year with a game like that?"

It feels good. As I said, I'm really focused on these playoffs. With how bad I did last year, in my opinion, I feel like I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I feel like I get another chance. We're back again and ready to win.

Although the regular season is wrapped up, this season is hopefully faaaar from over. And Michael Crabtree knows that. In last year's postseason, Crabtree had a touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints, but otherwise struggled to get much going. Against the Giants, the entire passing game was a mess, and blame really could be fairly spread around pretty much everybody but Vernon Davis.

The 2013 playoffs provide a chance for redemption for the entire offense. The wide receiver corps has had to deal with several injuries, leaving them a bit short-handed. Fortunately, Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree have developed a pretty impressive rapport. Crabtree made some huge catches on Sunday, and Kaepernick made some pretty impressive throws. His second touchdown pass to Crabtree, in particular, was as perfect a pass as you'll see. Patrick Peterson was attempting to jump the route, and Kaepernick fired it just past his outstretched hands into the perfect spot for Crabtree.

While the team scuffled a bit down the stretch, if there is one area where there is offensive momentum heading into January, it's the Kaepernick-Crabtree connection. Defenses are going to key on that, so it will be interesting to see how the 49ers adjust with Crabtree, and the rest of their receivers. That makes the bye week all the more valuable.

QB Colin Kaepernick and WR Michael Crabtree
Press Conference - December 30, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals

For both of you, the offense started off rough, but then at that 80 yard drive, things kind of clicked. What happened on those two plays.

Kaepernick: "The first play we had an alert to [WR Michael] Crabtree, if we got the right coverage, we got it. He went out there and won. He turned his guy around. The second play was a little bit of a scramble, but once again, he was wide open, made a great play, and got in the end zone."

How did you get open on that second play?

Crabtree: "It was something we practiced at home, using my technique. Kaepernick threw me the ball. He's real good with his feet and made something happen and really, he made the play."

You guys were doing a lot on the left sideline, was there a particular weakness that Arizona had and you exploited?

Kaepernick: "We were just going out, going through our reads, trying to make plays."

Colin, it looked like things really clicked for you from the beginning of the second quarter on. Did it feel that way for you?

Kaepernick: "Well, it's always tough when you're starting off pushed up against your own end zone. You can't open up the playbook like you want to, so once we got off our own end zone we were able to call some plays we thought we could take some shots with."

Michael, 1,000 yards for you this season, what does that milestone mean to you?

Crabtree: "My dude [Kaepernick] made it happen. I'm just going out there, running routes, catching the ball until I make a play."

Michael, do you think you could be a Pro Bowler, working a full season with Colin?

Crabtree: "I think I can be a Pro Bowler, I think I can. I'm trying to get to the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl [voting] is over with so I'm trying to win. We've been here before. I see we have the bye week right now. I'm ready to go back out there."

Colin, your old coach [Nevada Head Coach Chris Ault] stepped down yesterday. He kept the options open about coaching in the NFL, maybe offensive coordinator or special assistant. Do you see yourself maybe playing for him again?

Kaepernick: "I don't really know. That depends on what he is feeling and who is looking at him."

Do you think he would do well in the NFL?

Kaepernick: "Yeah, he's a great coach. He would do well wherever he went."

When you look at the bye, what are you going to accomplish and how is it going to be beneficial?

Kaepernick: "I think the biggest thing is get healthy and keep working hard. We're going to have a little time off. A little time to rest, and then get ready to get into the following week full speed."

Michael, how does it feel to wrap up a career year with a game like that?

Crabtree: "It feels good. As I said, I'm really focused on these playoffs. With how bad I did last year, in my opinion, I feel like I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I feel like I get another chance. We're back again and ready to win."

Colin, you had to go to New Orleans and St. Louis, and then New England, Seattle. Tough places to play. Do you think you are as ready as you can be for your first playoff action?

Kaepernick: "Yeah, I mean you have to treat playoffs like it's every other game. You have to prepare like it and go out there to perform, and that's what it comes down to."

How nice has it been playing together?

Kaepernick: "I mean he's a playmaker. You put the ball in his hands and he's going to do something with it. A lot of the items we're trying to put the ball into his hands and see what he can do."

What's it like rooting in the last couple of minutes, for the Vikings?

Kaepernick: "It's a little nerve-wracking watching them play. We would have been a lot better off if we handled business last week and kept the ball in our court and made sure we could handle business ourselves."

How much did it mean watching Alex Smith get to play in the end?

Kaepernick: "Yeah, it's always good to see your teammate go out there and play and do well. It's always good."

Michael, what's the correlation with you getting a new career high day in receiving, the same day that Colin gets a career high in passing?

Crabtree: "To tell you the truth, I wasn't really paying attention. I didn't even know you did a career high day." Kaepernick: "I didn't either, I just found out." Crabtree: "Like I said, it's football, we just go out there and play."

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