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Michael Crabtree’s Return Opens Offense

Posted Dec 1, 2013

Crabtree’ s presence opened things up for the 49ers offense in a major way. No longer could the opponent put the clamps down against Boldin, tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore.

When they’re done with the season, maybe Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Colin Kaepernick can develop a three-man comedy act.

The trio of standout offensive players was all business on the field in a 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. Afterward, however, the 49ers No. 1 and 2 receivers and quarterback played off each other in humorous fashion.

All three of the playmakers took to the postgame podium at the same time. Hilarity ensued.

Crabtree’s big moment in his return to the field was a 60-yard reception, which tied his career-long catch. Kaepernick razzed his teammate about not getting in the end zone.

PHOTOS: 49ers vs. Rams

“He’s supposed to score,” said San Francisco’s signal-caller who finished the game completing 19 of 28 passes for 275 yards and one touchdown.

Boldin, too, chimed in with a teaser.

“We’ll give him a pass,” the 11-year veteran said of Crabtree’s big play. “Thanksgiving was this week.”

Crabtree, sharp as ever, quickly fired back to his elder teammate.

“You’re the one that gave me all the turkey!”

It was a lighthearted moment, but an even better postgame sight for 49ers fans who saw their team improve to 8-4.

Boldin played every bit like a grown man on a day where Crabtree returned to the field. Boldin led the team with nine catches for 98 yards. Crabtree, in his first game of the season, flashed his play-making ability while pulling down two catches for 68 yards.

Crabtree’ s presence opened things up for the 49ers offense in a major way. No longer could the opponent put the clamps down against Boldin, tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore.

With Crabtree back in the starting lineup and playing a major offensive role, the 49ers racked up 20 first downs and 338 yards of offense against a competitive St. Louis defense.

“Anytime you can get a guy back that contributes heavily is a great thing,” said Davis, who produced the game’s top highlight, a 17-yard touchdown catch that saw San Francisco’s tight end hurdle a Rams defender at the goal line.

“Crabtree is a special player,” Davis added. “He's important to this team. We’re extremely happy to have him back.”

In Boldin’s case, the presence of Crabtree allowed the veteran to face more single coverage looks.

Boldin made the Rams pay for it.

“It’s about time he gets double-teamed,” Boldin said with a grin while looking at Crabtree to his right. “When you have guys like that, it definitely relieves pressure.”

After a scrappy first quarter that saw both teams combine to commit eight of the game’s 20 penalties, Boldin started catching every pass thrown his way. He made five receptions on a scoring drive capped by a 3-yard Gore touchdown plunge.

“He made great plays,” Jim Harbaugh said of Boldin, the team’s leading wideout. “Strong catches, run after catches, doing what was necessary.

“A lot of big-time plays by Anquan Boldin.”

Crabtree followed suit. Although he was flagged twice on San Francisco’s opening drive – once for a block in the back and later on an offensive pass interference call – Crabtree settled down and got into the flow of the game.

“I had to get those jitters out,” Crabtree said.

Following his first game of the season, the fifth-year pro said he felt fine after a heavy workload.

“I was at game speed,” Crabtree said. “I probably wasn’t 100 percent.”

The 49ers will take Crabtree at whatever percentage point he’s currently at. He made a big difference against St. Louis.

“He’s always been a big-game player,” Harbaugh said as he praised Crabtree for stepping right into the fray and playing like his old self. “I anticipated that.”

The Crabtree-Boldin passing connection also allowed the defense to stay fresh on the sideline.

San Francisco's scoring drives lasted 5:15, 6:33, 6:00, 5:31 and :10 (Davis' touchdown capped a 1-play scoring drive).

"It allowed us to get some rest, which allowed us to finish the game." safety Donte Whitner said.

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