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49ers passing game: All about the tight end, fullback and one wide receiver

The 49ers passing game has been reduced to WR Anquan Boldin, TE Vernon Davis and FB Bruce Miller. What can we make of it with Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree on the way back? New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

Bob Martin-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers rolled to victory on Sunday thanks to a dominant ground game. The 49ers running backs combined for 221 yards on 38 carries, over double the workload in the passing game. Colin Kaepernick and Colt McCoy combined to complete 11 of 17 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.

The 49ers passing game has been a bit of an odd one this season. The 49ers have reached record-tying highs on offense lately, with five straight games of 30+ points. The ground game has been key, but the passing game has made its share of contributions. What's most amazing about all this is how the passing game has performed with only one actual wide receiver doing much of anything.

Through the first eight games, here is a rundown of the receivers, from top to bottom:

Anquan Boldin: 38 receptions, 551 yards, 2 touchdowns
Vernon Davis: 29 receptions, 518 yards, 7 touchdowns
Bruce Miller: 13 receptions, 158 yards
Kyle Williams: 11 receptions, 108 yards
Frank Gore: 8 receptions, 96 yards
Vance McDonald: 6 receptions, 86 yards
Garrett Celek: 1 receptions, 30 yards
Jon Baldwin: 3 receptions, 28 yards
Kendall Hunter: 2 receptions, 13 yards
Marlon Moore: 1 receptions, 6 yards
Anthony Dixon: 1 receptions, 3 yards
Quinton Patton: 1 receptions, 0 yards

Yes, indeed, fullback Bruce Miller is the number three receiver on this squad. It has been noticeable, and we saw him make a huge impact early on against the Jaguars. He went to run off the field, but then lined up wide nobody covering him, and proceeded to catch a quick pass and scamper 43 yards. He's had at least one reception in every game, and whether it is a wheel route or a quick dump-off, Miller is in on the action.

Amidst all the concerns at receiver, the 49ers have two players on pace for 1,000 receiving yards. Of course, given their game logs and the impending returns of Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, I would be surprised if either hit 1,000 yards. Boldin opened the season with 208 yards against the packers, while Davis had a big 180 yard day against the Arizona Cardinals. While it is possible either could repeat those performances, the 49ers are hopefully approaching a point where they will not have to count on that.

Mario Manningham is expected back when the 49ers get back next week after the bye, while Crabtree is looking at a late November return. I would have hoped to see somebody step up in the meantime, but beyond Davis, Boldin and Miller to some extent, there have not been a lot of opportunities.

The team tried to work in Kyle Williams on Sunday, but he struggled to do much with it. Jon Baldwin was out with an illness, Marlon Moore seems destined to be released when Manningham is activated, and Quinton Patton is sidelined with a fractured foot. Vance McDonald has been getting plenty of snaps, but Kap is not looking his way in the passing game.

Once Manningham, and later Crabtree, are back on the field, how exactly does the passing game adjust? The ground game will likely still be king, but with two weapons returning to the field, what do we see with the game-planning?

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