The San Francisco 49ers are on the brink of a return trip to the Super Bowl, and Michael Crabtree has been at the center of this incredible run. The 49ers hit a wall in the middle of the season and began to sputter, but the re-emergence of Crabtree into the lineup sparked several sensational performances which led the team in the right direction once again. The 49ers now sit two games away from a Super Bowl berth, and if Crabtree keeps up his stellar play the team will be all but assured a chance to play for the Lombardi Trophy.
The 49ers are 6-o with Crabtree in the lineup this season, and the standout wide receiver has helped the team in more ways than one. While Crabtree had had a solid production since his reinsertion to the lineup, he has also helped his fellow receivers find open seams in the secondary. Early in the season, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis drew double teams because a lack of a third and fourth receiving option which weakened the 49ers’ pass offense. With Crabtree back, teams have been forced to cover one more receiving threat which has opened up the field and given quarterback Colin Kaepernick more time to throw the ball. In just six games, Crabtree has accumulated 409 receiving yards and one touchdown along with a breakout performance on Wild-Card weekend.
The 49ers’ offense didn’t fare very well when the team went up against the stingy Carolina Panthers‘ defense in Week 10, and the absence of Crabtree and Davis proved too much to overcome in that game. The Panthers’ defense has been great this season, but Carolina has been vulnerable in the secondary at times and has a propensity to give up big plays through the air. Crabtree has become one of the best in the game at eluding coverage and finding a seam deep in the secondary which will come into play this weekend when the team visits Carolina.
Crabtree’s rapport with Kaepernick has not missed a beat even through Crabtree’s absence, and with the go-to target back the sky is the limit for this 49ers team. Where some teams have a problem finding a No. 2 and a No. 3 receiver, the 49ers have three legitimate No. 1 receivers which will prove to be the difference in the playoffs.
Greg Douglas is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.