COVERING ALL THINGS SILVER AND BLACK

49ers Hope to Open Downfield Passing Game

Longer throws vs. Washington Monday night may be a sign that passing attack is taking positive steps

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (No. 81) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick connected five times for two TDs vs. Washington. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    Monday night’s victory over Washington was a shot in the arm for the 49ers. After losing two straight games, the Niners were reeling, and issues with the team’s struggling offense were troubling.

    So, for the San Francisco offense to finally play well in a 27-6 victory reportedly lightened the mood around the team this week as it gets set to play the 5-6 St. Louis Rams Sunday at Candlestick Park.

    However, that offensive production against the Redskins needs to continue. The 7-4 49ers, after all, still rank No. 32 – dead last – in the NFL team passing stats, averaging just 173.5 yards per game.

    But in that victory over Washington, there were a couple of good signs.

    First, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was again effective.

    After throwing for just 91 and 127 yards in back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Saints and posting quarterback ratings of just 42.0 and 72.9, Kaepernick was terrific vs. the Redskins, completing 15-of-24 throws for 235 yards, three TDs, no interceptions and a rating of 134.6.

    Plus, the 49ers’ offense went back to a deeper passing game. In the previous game vs. the Saints, the 49ers’ longest pass play was 17 yards. Against Washington, Kaepernick completed 6-of-15 passes for 15 yards or more. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Kaepernick had completed just 36.5 percent of those types of throws through the first 10 games of the season.

    “We got back to being explosive tonight,” 49ers guard Alex Boone told ESPN.com after Monday night’s victory. “We really got back to having success in the passing game. … I think having Mario (Manningham) out there really helped. It just gives us more weapons.”

    Manningham, in just his third game back from injury, caught four passes for 45 yards, and his presence seemed to open up more options for wideout Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis.

    Now the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, has been activated and is expected to see his first playing time of the season against the Rams on Sunday. That could further help to give Kaepernick some more downfield options and force defenses to go away from their stacked-against-the-run schemes this season.

    Last season, Crabtree had his best year as a pro, catching 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine TDs. Often when Kaepernick needed a big play downfield, he went to Crabtree. Crabtree had 30 third-down catches in 2012. This week, Kaepernick declined to describe Crabtree as his “security blanket,” but said there’s no doubt he’s a playmaker.

    “He’s a great player,” the quarterback said. “He can make a lot of plays. I think everybody knows that.”

    Boldin, who had five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns Monday night, said the addition of Crabtree can’t help but juice up the passing game.

    “It gives us some depth,” Boldin told Taylor Price of 49ers.com. “It gives us another playmaker outside. It’s another added dimension that we need. We’ve seen Crab make plays over the years and we expect nothing less of him.”

     

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