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  • JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Michael Crabtree (15) of the 49ers eludes two Packers on his way to a 20-yard touchdown. "It's just something that happened, you know?" Crabtree said of his connection with Colin Kaepernick.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    The 49ers' Vernon Davis breaks free for a 44-yard gain in the third quarter on his only catch of the game. The reception set up Frank Gore's two-yard touchdown run.

  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Green Bay's Jeremy Ross (10), formerly of Laguna Creek High School and Cal, fumbles a punt that the 49ers' C.J. Spillman, right, recovers during the second quarter.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (12) throws an incomplete pass under pressure from the 49ers' defense during the third quarter.

  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Colin Kaepernick races 56 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that put the 49ers ahead to stay. He ran for 181 yards and two scores and threw for two touchdowns.

  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Green Bay didn't need a reminder of how overwhelming he was, but Colin Kaepernick still opted to flex after one of his two rushing TDs.

Kaepernick-to-Crabtree connection still evolving

Published: Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Friday, Mar. 14, 2014 - 10:22 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Receiver Michael Crabtree stepped to the podium following the 49ers' 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers wearing a black jacket, black pants, black shoes and black sunglasses.

He answered questions for three minutes, and then stepped down to make way for Colin Kaepernick, who wore a burgundy beanie hat and blue blazer.

"Dang, man," Crabtree told his quarterback. "GQ."

Even when it comes to fashion, apparently, these two are on the same page.

Crabtree, who emerged as Kaepernick's favorite target in the second half of his best season as a professional, continued the rapport in the 49ers' divisional playoff win Saturday night with nine catches for 119 yards and two momentum-swinging early touchdowns.

It was the fourth time in six games Crabtree went for over 100 receiving yards. During a season in which Crabtree became the first 49ers receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003 to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards, more than half those yards came in the seven games Kaepernick started.

Saturday night against the Packers, Kaepernick targeted Crabtree on 11 throws, more than twice as often as any other 49ers receiver.

"It's just something that happened, you know?" Crabtree said of the connection. "We're out there trying to make a play. We've both got one goal, and that's to win."

With the Packers leading 14-7 early in the second quarter, Green Bay return man Jeremy Ross muffed a punt that the 49ers recovered on the Packers' 9-yard line. Three plays later Kaepernick hit Crabtree on a short crossing route for a 12-yard touchdown.

After the 49ers intercepted Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the ensuing drive, Kaepernick found Crabtree in the end zone again, this time zipping a throw to the blanketed receiver on a skinny post route. The 20-yard touchdown gave the 49ers their first lead of the game at 21-14.

"He's a playmaker," Kaepernick said. "He's somebody we just want to get the ball in his hands and see what he can do."

After the game, there was a marked difference in Crabtree from the receiver who stood near his locker following his one-catch performance in the 49ers' loss in last year's NFC Championship Game and said he hadn't gotten enough opportunities to make an impact.

Leading up to Saturday, he referenced that game as one in which "I didn't do what I was supposed to do."

"Last year, it was bad," Crabtree said Saturday night. "But we're in a new year, and I'm just trying to make a play and trying to get this 'W.' "

That Crabtree would be a factor against the Packers was apparent immediately, as Kaepernick hit him for a nine-yard gain on the 49ers' first play from scrimmage.

Kaepernick also appeared to be looking for Crabtree on the play that resulted in his lone interception, which the Packers returned for the game's first score.

Crabtree slipped on the play, and Kaepernick changed direction and tried to force a throw to Vernon Davis.

"I slipped on one play, I fell, I was mad about that the whole game," Crabtree said. "Felt like I had to redeem myself, go out there and do my job."

Teammate Ted Ginn Jr. has noticed the change in Crabtree this season.

"He's been in this league for a while, four years, and I just believe he's just come into his own," Ginn said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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