49ers key matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman

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49ers key matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman

Editor's note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Sunday, 5:20 p.m. (NBC-TV), at CenturyLink Field, Seattle.

49ers WR Michael Crabtree vs. Seattle CB Richard Sherman

Tale of the tape
Crabtree (15): 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, fourth season, Texas Tech
Sherman (25): 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, second season, Stanford

Michael Crabtree is closing in on becoming the first 49ers player to achieve 1,000 yards receiving in a season since Terrell Owens in 2003.

Crabtree is coming on strong late in the season as quarterback Colin Kaepernick's preferred target.

While tight end Vernon Davis cites chemistry issues with Kaepernick for his disappearance from the 49ers' offense, Crabtree has stepped into the spotlight. Crabtree has totaled 23 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns in the past three games.

He goes up against one of his most difficult challenges on Sunday in Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who will play while his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs is pending. Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner will serve the third game of his four-game suspension for PEDs.

Sherman likes to get his hands on receivers and throw off the timing of routes. Crabtree, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, has taken his game to a higher level with an ability to pick up yards after the catch.

Crabtree had just four catches for 31 yards against Seattle when the teams met Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park with Alex Smith at quarterback.

"I think Crab matches up well against everybody," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "Crab's a player who's ascending. He gets better and that's what this league is all about. It's improvement. He's a young player in this league and he's a guy that's showing up big time for us, regardless of the style of coverage."

Crabtree has a career-high 73 receptions for 868 yards and seven touchdowns, also the most of his career. The last time the 49ers had a 1,000-yard receiver was nine years ago. In 2003, Terrell Owens caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns during his final season with the club.

Crabtree came up with two big plays in the 49ers' 41-34 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night. He made a 27-yard touchdown catch on a well-thrown pass down the middle between two safeties early in the quarter. And after the 49ers squandered a 28-point lead, Kaepernick looked for Crabtree when the Patriots came with an all-out blitz. Crabtree caught a 5-yard hitch, made cornerback Kyle Arrington miss, and ran 38 yards to give the 49ers a fourth-quarter lead they would not relinquish.

"He catches the ball," Kaepernick said. "He catches the ball and makes plays after he catches it. . . I mean, Crabs is the kind of receiver if you throw it close to him, he's going to catch it."

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Jacobs only played in two games and gained seven yards on five carries. The results were nothing like his 5,087 yards and 60 touchdowns over eight years with the Giants. 

Apparently being pushed to the bench as a 31-year-old veteran running back didn't sit well with Jacobs. 

“Going somewhere where they don’t have route conversions into certain coverages was just absurd,” Jacobs said Thursday on the Tiki and Tierney Show. “They’re just running routes in the defense, getting people killed. Size and strength is what they had, and that’s why they won.

"Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. Jim is throwing slants into Cover-2 safeties, getting people hurt. That guy knew nothing, man."

On Saturday morning, Harbaugh responded to Jacobs with a tweet to him. 

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as the 49ers' head coach. He also added five playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, the one that Jacobs played for him.

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

SANTA CLARA – The eldest non-kicker on the 49ers’ roster is learning a new position this offseason.

But Ahmad Brooks has plenty of experience adapting to new positions during his 12-year NFL career. He has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker in a 3-4 and defensive end in pass-rush situations.

Now, Brooks has moved to the strong side linebacker position -- the “Sam” -- in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“He’s getting them (first-team repetitions) because he deserves them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “Watching how he played last year and then going into this offseason, you never know when a guy who has been around a bunch, if they’re going to feel that they need the offseason like other people do. And Ahmad’s been here every day and he’s needed it just like everyone has anytime you’re learning a new scheme.

“But anytime you have a veteran like that, you worry that, hey, maybe they won’t think that they do need it. But Ahmad has and he’s been here. He’s worked at everything. He’s in good shape. He’s done what we’ve asked in the weight room with Ray and he’s done everything with the position coaches and coordinator on defense. So, I think he’s learning it and he should because he’s putting the work in.”

Brooks, 33, has entered the past three offseasons with his place on the 49ers seemingly in jeopardy. But the 49ers have not been able to find a younger, better player to replace him. Brooks has tied for the team-lead in sacks in each of the past four seasons with 27 sacks over that span.

Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson and undrafted rookie Jimmie Gilbert were the other players who lined up at the Sam position during the first week of 49ers organized team activities.

Brooks and Aaron Lynch, starters at outside linebacker for the 49ers in the previous systems, have the steepest learning curves in the transition to a new defense. Lynch has moved to the team’s pass-rush defensive end position, known as the “Leo.”

“I think techniques are totally different,” Shanahan said. “How you want to take on blocks, how you want to play the run. Ahmad has been around a little longer than Aaron. So he’s probably had a little bit more crossover, some similar schemes.”