The San Francisco 49ers were able to outlast the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon to advance to the divisional round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs. The Niners needed a Phil Dawson field goal as time expired to give them the 23-20 victory, but their victory was about way more than that.
For starters, San Francisco’s defense came up big on the enormous stage. The way they were able to pressure Aaron Rodgers and stifle Eddie Lacy was a tremendous help to their cause on Sunday. Moreover, Colin Kaepernick’s production both through the air and as a ball-carrier was big for the 49ers’ offense.
One of the big things that stood out beyond Kaepernick in the Niners’ offense, though, was the production of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Crabtree missed the 49ers’ first 11 games of the season with a torn Achilles and had been inconsistent in the regular season since returning to the lineup. However, he came up huge in the wildcard game against Green Bay.
Crabtree was targeted 13 times on Sunday, by far the most on the team. He caught eight of those passes for 125 yards, dwarfing the production of San Francisco’s second-leading wide receiver in Anquan Boldin who managed just 38 yards receiving. Though Crabtree didn’t find the end-zone, his production helped open up the offense.
Having Crabtree as a viable option in this 49ers’ offense is huge for them going forward in the postseason. While he doesn’t need eight catches for 125 yards every week, the threat of him being that type of big performer opens up the running game, room for Kaepernick to take off and run, and for Kaepernick to spread the ball around in the passing game. It could be a blip on the radar, but Crabtree’s big game could be a fantastic sign of things to come.