With Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game on the line, Jim Harbaugh trusted kicker Phil Dawson to make the game-winning kick. If his life depended on it, though, Harbaugh apparently would put his trust elsewhere.
After the San Francisco 49ers’ 23-20 win against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, Harbaugh was in a giddy mood, applauding his team for its effort and even bestowing some high praise on a few of his best players. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree received the highest praise of all.
“People talk about cold weather, and it’d be tough to catch balls,” Harbaugh said after the game, per the San Jose Mercury News. “But the greatest catcher of all time, Michael Crabtree, catches everything. It’s unbelievable.
“In the northern snowlands, down to the tropics’ sunny scenes, he’s catching the football. Where they throw a football, he’ll be catching it.”
Crabtree helped Harbaugh’s claim on Sunday, catching eight of the 13 passes thrown his way and accounting for more than half (125) of the 49ers’ 227 receiving yards. The fourth-year receiver has been so good since his return from injury, in fact, that Harbaugh even went as far as to say he’d be willing to put his life in the receiver’s hands.
“If my life depended on it and somebody had to catch a ball,” Harbaugh said, “I’d enlist Michael Crabtree to do it.”
Crabtree missed the first 11 games of the regular season while recovering from an Achilles injury, and Colin Kaepernick struggled without his top target. The 26-year-old receiver has helped turn things around for the 49ers’ offense and Kaepernick over the last six weeks, though, providing a major spark in the passing game.
Kaepernick completed 62 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns to just one interception over the final five games of the regular season, a vast improvement over his 56 percent, 14 touchdowns and seven picks through the first 11 games. The timeline of the sudden turnaround just so happens to coincide with the timing of Crabtree’s return.
Kaepernick struggled at the start on Sunday, throwing a costly interception early in the second quarter, but he finished strong, completing 16 of 30 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers now head to Carolina for a rematch with the Panthers, who got the best of the Niners in San Francisco with a 10-9 victory in Week 10. This time around, Crabtree could make all the difference, though. Harbaugh is counting on it.