After missing the first 11 games of 2013, it sounds as if Michael Crabtree will be ready to make his season debut when the 49ers take on the St. Louis Rams in Week 13. While they took some steps forward in Week 12′s 27-6 win over the Redskins, the passing offense has been a problem all season for San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick has only thrown for more than 200 yards in three games all year and the team is dead last in the NFL in passing yards with 1908.
The return of Crabtree, even if limited at first, should provide a boon for Kaepernick as the two developed a special chemistry in 2012. In the last five regular season games, Crabtree caught 35 of Kaepernick’s passes for 538 yards and 4 touchdowns. Overall, Kaepernick completed 68.5 percent of the passes thrown Crabtree’s way with 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. In comparision, he had a 58.4 percent completion percentage with 1 touchdown and 4 picks when throwing to all other wide receivers.
Even more important is what Crabtree will bring to the team on third downs. In 2012, the receiver caught 32 passes and 24 of those receptions were converted into first downs. Overall, he was targeted 49 times on third and fourth down by both Kaepernick and Alex Smith. Crabtree was also deadly after he caught the ball in 2012. His 543 yards after the catch were the fourth highest total in the league and accounted for 49.1 percent of his total receiving yards.
At 7-4, the 49ers find themselves in a dogfight for a playoff spot and every game from here on out is a must win. The return of Crabtree makes the team as whole as they’ve been all season, and the most equipped to handle tough games down the stretch.
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