Michael Crabtree helped spark the 49ers’ second-half surge Monday night, and he finished with 102 receiving yards, his first 100-yard game this season. But the man who will be covering him in Sunday’s regular-season finale doesn’t think the 49ers’ wideout has fully recovered from his torn Achilles’ tendon.
“He’s slowly getting back into the groove, like he’s trying to get back in game shape, get back moving the way he used to,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said Thursday. “You can tell he doesn’t look as comfortable as he did when he was healthy. That’s going to come with time.”
Arizona coach Bruce Arians agreed.
“I do not see the same guy,” he said of Crabtree. “But he’s getting really close.”
The Cardinals – and Peterson in particular – know exactly what Crabtree is capable of when he’s healthy. He missed the teams’ first meeting this season Oct. 13. Last year, however, he had two of his best games against Peterson. In the first, he had five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns. In the regular-season finale, he had the best statistical game of his career with eight catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said it’s only natural Crabtree isn’t yet back to his 2012 form.
“How many games has he played? Four?” Roman said. “That’s like the preseason for most people – with no training camp.”
Still, Crabtree’s impact is undeniable. He’s played in all but one game of the 49ers’ five-game winning streak. And Colin Kaepernick’s quarterback rating – 89.9 this season – has been 98.3 in Crabtree’s four games.
Peterson certainly wasn’t trying to disrespect an opponent; he said the speed at which Crabtree has returned from his injury is impressive.
“He still can get away from defensive backs,” Peterson said. “He still has the ability to take the top off the defenses and things like that. He does a great job of gaining yards after the catch. He reminds me of a Dez Bryant, a guy that is tough to tackle once he gets a ball in his hands.”
Added Peterson with a chuckle: “He looked really, really good Monday. Hopefully, he doesn’t look good Sunday.”
Whitner said he hasn’t had any money deducted from his paychecks for any of the penalties he’s received for alleged illegal hits this season. He was fined $21,000 for a hit on Rams wide receiver Chris Givens in Week 4 but said he won his appeal.
Whitner said officials are misinterpreting any hard hit as an illegal one. And he said his technique should be used as a model by a league that wants to do away with dangerous hits but ostensibly wants to preserve the game’s toughness.
“You have to have a poster boy in the National Football League who can still hit hard and do it the right way and show people how to do it the right way,” Whitner said. “... It’s playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played and trying to tweak it in those really, really fast moments when you hit a guy.”