Matt & Mindi: Bye allows 49ers to get healthy
SAN FRANCISCO -- Neither Colin Kaepernick nor Michael Crabtree seems to enjoy standing in front of the media and answering questions.
On Sunday, they did everything together, including a joint post-game press conference.
Kaepernick threw for a career-high 276 yards and Crabtree had his own career game with eight receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns as the 49ers clinched the NFC West title and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a 27-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park.
[MAIOCCO'S INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers win NFC West, earn No. 2 seed]
"My dude made it happen," said Crabtree, who compiled career-highs with 85 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns downs this season. "I'm just going out there, running routes, catching the ball and trying to make plays."
With seven starts to finish the regular season, Kaepernick and Crabtree will head into the playoffs tied at the hip. The 49ers open the playoffs Saturday, Jan. 12 at 5:00 p.m. PST at Candlestick Park against an opponent the best seed to emerge from the wild-card round of the playoffs next weekend.
Among Kaepernick's starts have been road games at New Orleans, St. Louis, New England and Seattle. On Sunday, the 49ers overcame a slow start to pull away from the lowly Cardinals in the second half.
"You have to treat playoffs like it's every other game," Kaepernick said. "You have to prepare like it and go out and perform. That's what it comes down to."
Crabtree has bad memories from last year's postseason when he dropped several passes against the New Orleans Saints and was held to one catch for 3 yards in the NFC Championship game loss to the New York Giants. Crabtree believed quarterback Alex Smith could have given him more opportunities to make plays. Now, Crabtree clearly has the quarterback he prefers.
"I'm really focused on these playoffs," Crabtree said. "With how bad I did last year, in my opinion, I feel like I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I feel like I get another chance. We're back and again and ready to win."
The 49ers trailed 6-0 in the second quarter Sunday against the Cardinals before Kaepernick and Crabtree got the team going. Kaeperick hit Crabtree on a 31-yard pass over the middle. Then, Crabtree worked free for a 49-yard touchdown. The two-play drive covered 80 yards and lasted 48 seconds.
"The first play we had an alert to Crabtree, if we got the right coverage," Kaepernick said. "We got it. He went out there and won. He turned his guy around. The second play was a little bit of a scramble, but once again he was wide open, made a great play, and got in the end zone."
Said Crabtree, "It was something we practiced at home, using my technique. Kaepernick threw me the ball. He's real good with his feet and made something happen and, really, he made the play."
Crabtree continued to get the better of his head-to-head matchups against Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was selected to the Pro Bowl this season. In four games against Arizona in the two seasons Peterson has been in the NFL, Crabtree has 27 catches for 427 yards and four touchdowns.
When asked if Crabtree has been that good or Peterson that bad, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "I'd say it's fair to say both. I really have to say that he's (Crabtree) a good player, at least in the games that he's played against us. But Patrick hasn't played very well against him, either. It seems like we can't tackle that guy."