While his presence has helped open things up for his teammates, Michael Crabtree had been relatively quiet in his five games since returning from an Achilles’ injury. The 49er wide receiver averaged just under 57 yards a game in the regular season and only found the end zone once. That all changed in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, as Crabtree was once again the difference maker he showed he could be late last season in the 49ers 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Crabtree was targeted 13 times on the day and caught eight passes for 125 yards. It was the third time in his last four playoff games that the receiver has eclipsed the 100 yard mark. Most importantly, seven of his eight catches on the day went for first downs and three of the receptions moved the chains on 3rd or 4th down. No play may have been bigger than his 17 yard grab on 3rd and 10 from San Francisco’s own 31 yard line to help continue the game winning drive. For those who have watched Crabtree over the past couple of years, plays like this should come as no surprise.
In 2012, Crabtree caught 32 passes on third downs and 24 of those receptions were converted into first downs. Overall, he was targeted 49 times on third and fourth down. 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. His ability to extend plays after the making receptions is a big reason why he has been so successful at helping his team maintain drives.
As the playoffs wear on and the stakes get higher, the 49ers will need Crabtree to continue to make big plays. His impact should be felt again in the Divisional Round as the 49ers will face a Carolina Panthers defense that held them to 151 total yards and only 46 net yards passing in Week 10 without the receiver in the lineup.
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