SANTA CLARA -- Colin Kaepernick not only has two high-profile wide receivers urging him to throw the ball to them on Sundays, hes hearing the same exhortations during the week.
I mean, there are times in practice where theyre, Hey, throw me the ball. Im going to do this, Kaepernick said Wednesday about Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. Thats something you love to see as an offensive player. Theyre players that challenge each other in a good way in that, I want to see if I can make a better play than you.
The 49ers quarterback is more than happy to have two receivers begging for the ball. He said their competitive spirit rubs off on the teams other pass catchers. And Crabtrees return to the lineup has forced defenses to play the 49ers differently than when Boldin and Vernon Davis were the teams main receiving threats.
The 49ers are 3-0 since Crabtrees return, and Kaepernick who early in the season was thought by some to have regressed has surpassed a 100 passer rating in three of his past four games.
Its changed the way defenses play us a lot, Kaepernick said. We get a lot more honest looks from defenses because we have a balance across the field, as far as the capability to make plays. Thats opened up a lot of things for Anquan. Its opened up a lot of things for Crab and Vernon. With those three on the field, its tough for defenses to match up with them in the passing game.
Kaepernicks rapport with Boldin was nearly instantaneous, starting as far back as May, which Kaepernick attributed to Boldin picking up the playbook quickly and to the veterans confidence. Kaepernick said he loves seeing self-assurance in his receivers.
As a quarterback, those are all things that go into, OK, this is someone I can really rely on. I can put the ball in the air and hes going to be where he needs to be, he said. As quarterback, thats something you love. You have that freedom to put the ball in the air.
He has the same trust in Crabtree, his favorite target in 2012 who appears to be reaching last years level after missing three-quarters of the season because of an Achilles tear. Crabtree on Sunday had his best game since returning, catching five of the six passes that went his way for 45 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown.
Coach Jim Harbaugh joked last week that he knew Crabtree was back to full strength when he heard him barking on the sideline about getting more passes thrown his way. Kaepernick said Boldin, who is seven years Crabtrees senior and who, having played opposite Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, is accustomed to sharing passes, is a bit more subtle.
But hes someone wholl come to the sideline after a series and be like, He cant cover me, Kaepernick said. So at that point, from then on during the game, I know if I need an outlet, hes probably going to be open.
Crabtrees fire and competitiveness manifested itself in other, undesirable ways Sunday. In the third quarter, Kaepernick didnt see Crabtree open, streaking downfield, and threw an underneath route to Boldin instead. Later in the game, Crabtree again was loose downfield, but Kaepernick overthrew him.
Frustrated, Crabtree picked up the ball and flung it toward the line of scrimmage, picking up a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Kaepernick said penalties should be avoided but hell tolerate them if it means he has a receiver who wants his hands on the ball as badly as Crabtree.
I dont see it necessarily as a bad thing, Kaepernick said. Obviously, you dont want the flag; that was something that didnt benefit us. But having a receiver that constantly wants the ball is something I like. Ill manage the situation of him (saying), Hey, give me the ball. I want the ball. Im trying to make a play. You could have hit me on this. Ill manage that.
I feel its tougher when you have a receiver thats, Um, if you throw it my way, I guess Ill try to make a play. Thats a worse situation. The fact he wants the ball and constantly is asking for it, thats a good thing for me.
Read Matthew Barrows blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.