After Sunday’s 49ers victory over the Seahawks, Michael Crabtree went to Twitter.
“That was a fight out there,” he wrote Sunday evening. “Hard win. Great team win. Need a better game out of me. … I owe my team and fans 1.”
Though Crabtree obviously wanted to make more plays vs. Seattle in the 19-17 victory – he caught four balls for 40 yards – his teammates and coaches would probably disagree with him.
To them, Crabtree already has made an enormous difference to the 49ers offense since returning from injury two games ago.
Even though he’s likely not 100 percent just yet after surgery and rehab to an Achilles’ tendon, Crabtree is giving the 49ers a third go-to receiver and forcing defenses away from double coverage on wideout Anquan Boldin or tight end Vernon Davis.
Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh has been surprised at how well Crabtree is moving and playing and told reporters, “It’s like he’s back.”
And No. 15’s presence has allowed the 49ers pass offense to be more effective in back-to-back victories over the Rams and Seahawks. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 275 yards and a TD vs. St. Louis and 175 yards and a TD vs. Seattle – a much better performance than in Week 2, when Kaepernick threw for 127 yards with three interceptions against the 'Hawks.
With Crabtree on the field, the Seahawks couldn’t smother Boldin or Davis on most plays, but had to play a more honest scheme in the secondary.
“It’s a valid point,” Harbaugh told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group on Monday. “There’ve been times throughout the year where Anquan and Vernon have gotten doubled on the same play. Michael’s presence out there, and everything he’s shown he can do since coming back, that’s another high-level guy that’s got to be accounted for.”
In Week 2 at Seattle, for instance, Boldin had one catch for 7 yards. In Sunday’s rematch, he had six catches for 93 yards. The previous week, in Crabtree’s debut, Boldin had nine catches for 98 yards.
As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, Boldin is averaging 7.5 catches and 95.5 yards in two games with Crabtree. In the seven games before Crabtree’s return, he averaged four catches for 50.3 yards.
“First game, they rolled a lot of coverage to me,” Boldin told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “Having Crab back, we had different looks – it was allowing me to go one-on-one with certain guys. That’s why you see a difference.”
The 49ers, now 9-4, next see action this Sunday at Tampa Bay against the Bucs, who are 4-9 but have won four of their past five games.