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Count On Crabtree


Michael Crabtree led the 49ers in receiving nine different weeks during the regular season.

And with the 49ers needing a win every week to keep hold of the NFC's No. 2 playoff seed, Crabtree led the 49ers in receiving in five of the team's last seven games, too.

In a breakout season for the third-year receiver, Crabtree proved just how valuable of a contributor he could be for the 49ers offense.

He also wowed teammates with consistent effort.

"He's a beast," left guard Mike Iupati said. "He makes so many plays for us, too."

With injuries to Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. limiting the depth on the 49ers receiving corps, Crabtree, along with tight end Vernon Davis, stepped up to become key weapons for a 13-3, NFC West-winning club.

Crabtree posted four-or-more catches in San Francisco's last seven regular season contests. He also recorded the first multi-touchdown game of his career in a Week 17 road win over St. Louis.

However, the two-touchdown game didn't make Crabtree as chipper as you'd expect.

The No. 10 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft came into the league with lofty goals, including posting many multi-scoring games.

"It's what I expected of myself," Crabtree said of his eight-catch, 86-yard performance over the Rams, a team he's scored touchdowns against in his last four outings. "It was really just putting it on paper. I always think big, I don't know if that's negative or bad, but that's how I've always been."

With many goals left to attain, the most prominent being a run at San Francisco's sixth World Championship, Crabtree is looking past his career-best regular season performances and towards a playoff run which begins on Saturday against the New Orleans Saints.

So while Crabtree caught 72 passes for 874 yards with four touchdown catches, all that goes to the wayside with the Saints coming to Candlestick Park.

"This is everything you dream of," Crabtree said of the playoffs. "We have to keep it going."

Teammates expect their No. 1 wideout to elevate his play on the game's biggest stage.

"He's been able to step in and carry the load for us while other guys have banged up," said Williams, who's re-joined his team at practice after sitting out the Rams game with a concussion. "He's been great. I think the scrutiny is always going to come when you're a top-10 pick, but I see it every day – he works like a top-10 pick, he's a top-10 talent."

More than behind the scenes attitude or work ethic, Crabtree has impressed teammates with what he's able to do in between the lines on gameday.

"He's a play-maker," right tackle Anthony Davis said. "He works hard. He gets after it, whether it's yards after the carry or finishing strong with the ball, blocking downfield, making an unselfish play."

Crabtree considers yards after the catch (YAC) to be one of his strongest talents.

"It's a big part of football," Crabtree detailed. "You've always been taught how to run a route, but after that, it's just you being a football player, you know? It's what you add on to the game. That's probably where the term 'play-maker' comes from, it's really YAC."

Crabtree's YAC this week will have to come at the expense of a Saints defense which finished the regular season ranked 24th in total defense, allowing 368.4 yards per game, including 259.8 passing yards per game, ranking 30th in the NFL.

For the regular season, the Saints recorded just nine interceptions, which finished tied for 28th in the league. Conversely, Alex Smith led the NFL with just five interceptions on the year.

And while Crabtree asserted himself as the team's go-to perimeter target, Smith continued his intelligent play in the pocket by not throwing an interception over the final five weeks of the regular season. As a testament to smart decision-making by all of its offensive players, San Francisco finished the year with just 10 turnovers on the year, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history.

"Every single game this year, we've won in just about every way, by putting up points or taking it down to the wire and having to play a defensive game," Williams added. "We've won in all different kinds of ways – so why not think we can do it again.

"No matter what type of game it is, we feel like we can come up on top."

Crabtree's production will be a key ingredient to what the team has accomplished all season.

In those nine games Crabtree led the 49ers in receiving yards, the team went 7-2.

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