Randy Moss

Subtle contributions by 49ers' Moss appreciated

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 - 7:50 am

SANTA CLARA – As Jim Harbaugh went over a long checklist of contributors in the 49ers' 42-point win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday, the coach lingered on one player who, based on the box score, didn't make much of an impact.

For the second consecutive game, wide receiver Randy Moss saw only two passes thrown in his direction. While Michael Crabtree finished with 113 receiving yards and tight end Vernon Davis 106 yards, Moss had one catch for 11 yards.

Harbaugh, however, said Moss' contributions have come elsewhere, and he offered this teaser to anyone wondering if the 35-year-old's days as a dangerous deep threat were behind him: "It's just a matter of time before you get the big-catch day that everybody seems to only pin their evaluation on," Harbaugh said. "But he's been excellent."

Moss' production – nine catches for 99 yards and one touchdown through five games – has been a sidebar to San Francisco's 4-1 start.

He not only is a Pro Football Hall of Fame-caliber receiver who has been a staple of highlight shows for more than a decade, he has a reputation for loafing, especially when the footballs stop being thrown in his direction.

Harbaugh said he's heard those stories, but he insisted it's as if Moss has erased the "Etch A Sketch" on his reputation and has begun drawing a new one.

"A lot of people talk about the past or whatever," Harbaugh said. "I've seen nothing other than a guy that just works hard and wants to contribute and practices, just says and does all the right things."

Harbaugh added that the sharp-minded Moss frequently comes up with suggestions about plays or game plans. "The neat thing about it is, it's never a self-centered thing," Harbaugh said. "It's never how to get him more balls. It's how it would help the team or help the group or the unit."

Moss' mere presence on the field appears to have helped the 49ers. He was in on 20 plays in Sunday's 45-3 win over Buffalo, often lining up as the lone receiver in the team's run packages. In those instances, Moss attracts both a cornerback and a safety, meaning defenses can't stack themselves entirely against the run.

Moss also was on the field for Vernon Davis' 53-yard catch Sunday, the 49ers' longest play from scrimmage this season.

When quarterback Alex Smith dropped back, he first looked to the left for Moss, causing the Bills free safety to move in that direction.

That left the right side of the field open for Davis.

Tight end Delanie Walker had a long reception the previous week against the Jets after Moss ran deep down the sideline, taking a cornerback and safety with him into the end zone.

Notes – Harbaugh said Smith's sprained middle finger is "very much a concern." Then again, he noted that Smith said the injury was no big deal.

"So we'll see," Harbaugh said.

The best indication will come Wednesday when the 49ers file their initial injury report of the week. Smith hurt the finger on his throwing hand midway through the fourth quarter when he was hit by Bills defensive end Mario Williams and braced himself as he went to the ground. Smith played two more snaps but did not attempt another throw.

• Asked why Brandon Jacobs, who practiced throughout the week leading up to the Bills game, did not play, Harbaugh said the big running back was "still not quite there" in his rehabilitation from a knee injury. Jacobs suffered the injury in an Aug. 18 exhibition game. The 49ers face Jacobs' former team, the Giants, on Sunday.

• The 49ers have a chance to beat all three New York state teams in three weeks.

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