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Michael Crabtree Stays Hot, Scores Twice

Posted Jan 12, 2013

In the midst of a joyous postgame scene inside of Candlestick Park’s home locker room, Michael Crabtree might’ve had the biggest grin of all the San Francisco 49ers.

Prior to Saturday night’s NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, Crabtree said he wanted to atone for a lackluster 2011 postseason.

The fourth-year wideout did just that by starting off his 2012 playoffs with a bang. In San Francisco’s convincing 45-31 win over the Packers, Crabtree stood as the game's leading receiver on the same field as Green Bay’s much-publicized perimeter weapons.

“Every playoff game I have something to prove,” said Crabtree, who became San Francisco’s first, 1,000-yard receiving wideout in the regular season since 2003. “Last year it was bad, it was what it was. We are on a new year and I’m just trying to make a play and get that win.”

Crabtree made a few plays alright. In total, he grabbed nine passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in a breakout performance that couldn’t help but make the 49ers leading wideout smile.

As Crabtree put on his diamond earrings to complete his all-black postgame attire, he looked to his left, saw Randy Moss smiling right back his way and couldn’t help but share a laugh about the competitive game that had taken place.

The San Francisco 49ers featured Crabtree prominently in a postseason game and the young playmaker didn’t disappoint.

“I think he’s been working and it’s showing up,” commented right tackle Anthony Davis. “That’s it. I think it’s just work.”

However, the productive game against the Packers wasn’t as big of a surprise to Crabtree’s head coach.

“I think it’s pretty well-documented how vital he is,” Jim Harbaugh said. “Again, he was outstanding. The back-shoulder catches, those are great plays. The catch and runs again. The yards that he gets after the catch. He’s really like a running back when he gets the ball in his hands. And he was outstanding.”

Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick, a first-time postseason starter, connected on several back-shoulder throws along the sidelines. Furthermore, they worked well on third downs. Crabtree consistently moved the chains for the 49ers. Case in point, his first touchdown catch, a 12-yard reception, was turned in on a third-and-goal scenario.

“He played great,” Kaepernick said of Crabtree. “He is a key player in this offense – he’s a playmaker. He is someone that we want to get the ball into his hands and see what he can do.”

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who called a number of zone-read plays that were successful against Green Bay, credited Crabtree’s efforts behind the scenes in leading to such a positive public display.

“The guy is working hard, taking his game up a notch quite frankly and he’s a big spark for us,” Roman said after Crabtree helped his unit produce 579 total yards of offense.

Hard-work was consistent from Crabtree and the 49ers wideouts throughout the evening. Not only where they factors in the passing game, they also cleared running lanes for Kaepernick, who had a franchise best 181 rushing yards to go along with two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs.

On Kaepernick’s 56-yard score, Ted Ginn Jr. sealed off a Packers defensive back to create a huge alley for the sprinting signal-caller to burst up the field.

“You’ve got to make plays however it comes to you,” said Ginn Jr., who lined up mostly as the team’s third wide receiver against Green Bay. “All week, the coaches were saying, 'stay on your corner' and I was doing what I was supposed to do - made a block at the right time and sprung him for six.”

With the wide receivers contributing in both the run and pass game, the 49ers got out to a 24-21 halftime lead and continued to make enough plays in the second half to outlast Green Bay.

With the win, the 49ers improved to 20-9 at home in the postseason, tying Pittsburgh Steelers for most postseason home victories in NFL history.

“It was a shoot-out,” Crabtree said of the battle with Green Bay that saw the game tied at four different points of the first half. “We knew those guys could put up points and we just came out ready to play.”

In particular, Crabtree never backed down from the challenge. Even when the 49ers trailed 7-0 after the home team’s only turnover of the game – a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Packers cornerback Sam Shields – Crabtree never lost confidence in himself or the 49ers offense.

“Nobody panicked, everyone was on their P’s and Q’s,” Crabtree explained. “Everybody knew what they had to do to make the game go. We just went there and made it happen.”

Crabtree’s touchdowns, both turned in the second quarter, made sure the 49ers would respond to the early mistake.

It also ensured that the young wideout has another big stage for his next performance – the NFC title game to be played next Sunday.

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