It took a little while, but this season 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree finally put himself in the conversation about the up-and-coming receivers in the league. The insertion of Colin Kaepernick as the starter at QB had a lot to do with that. This season Crabtree set career highs with 85 catches, 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns, but his play over the last six weeks as he's gotten in sync with Kaepernick has made the San Francisco offense the dangerous monster that it currently is.
In the last six games, including last week's nine catch, 119 yard, two touchdown game, he's averaging 109 receiving yards. In the final five games of the regular season he scored five of his nine touchdowns this season.
Falcons safety William Moore saw Crabtree in college and has followed his career since entering the league the same year in 2009. Moore sees a receiver similar to Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin and thinks Crabtree's speed and athleticism is being put to good use in San Francisco's offense.
"He's a guy that can get down field real quick," Moore said. "He's a deep threat all the time. When they do their gadgets, he's a guy that can reverse the field. You've got to respect what he's done."
Crabtree has emerged as the 49ers' top offensive weapon, supplanting tight end Vernon Davis as the No. 1 receiving option. Davis hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 11 of the regular season, but every opposing defense respects what he's capable of. As teams try to take Davis away, Kaepernick and his deep arm has started targeting Crabtree, utilizing the young receivers' playmaking skills.
Moore thinks Davis takes pressure off Crabtree and Kaepernick's ability to run the ball so effectively puts a lot of pressure on the cornerback.
"Because Colin is a running quarterback it opens up a lot of receivers," Moore said. "The corners are important in the run also. When a quarterback runs a lot, the cornerback has to not only key his man, he has to key the quarterback as well because he's the primary force out there to force everything back in. It slows the cornerback down and Crabtree takes advantage of it."