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

crabtree_michael_sherman_richard_49ers_seahawks.jpg

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."

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

boldin-anquan-49ers-smoke.jpg
AP

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

ryan-shanahan.jpg

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.