Gore should benefit from Crabtree's return

Three and Out: Easing Crabtree back; Snyder for Iupati again

Gore should benefit from Crabtree's return
November 29, 2013, 10:15 am
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Last season, Michael Crabtree became the 49ers’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003. (AP)

The 49ers own the No. 6 rushing attack in the NFL. And no team has thrown for fewer yards this season than the 49ers.

And for that reason, the 49ers have faced defense that have been geared up to stop Frank Gore’s inside running.

As 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said recently, “We've seen some extreme looks.”

One of those unique defensive alignments came on the first play of the second quarter when Washington stacked nine defenders with seven yards of the line of scrimmage. That left Vernon Davis single-covered against cornerback Josh Wilson. With no safety in the middle of the field, Colin Kaepernick was able to hook up with Davis on a 40-yard pass completion.

But those kinds of big plays down the field have not come with as much regularity, considering how defenses have virtually dared the 49ers to attempt to make plays on the outside against single coverage.

The 49ers took a step in a positive direction Monday against Washington. The 49ers had five pass plays of 20 or more yards. In losses to Carolina and New Orleans, the 49ers were not able to capitalize with any big plays in the passing game.

Things should be changing for the 49ers, though.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who last season became the 49ers’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003, practiced Wednesday and Thursday. And he is on pace to return to action Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park.

And while Crabtree’s presence should help breathe a little more life into the 49ers’ passing game, it might have a more significant impact on Gore.

“I think any time you can balance out the field, it’s a bonus and bringing Michael Crabtree back adds value any way you look at it,” Roman said.

Despite being the sole focus of opposing defenses for most of the season, Gore still ranks ninth in the NFL with 779 yards and seven touchdowns on 188 attempts for a 4.1-yard average. Gore, a ninth-year pro, is on pace for his seventh 1,000-yard season.

Through 11 games, the 49ers have gotten touchdown receptions from a league-low two players: Davis and Anquan Boldin. Davis has nine scoring receptions, while Boldin is responsible for the other five of Kaepernick’s touchdown passes.

With Crabtree returning and wide receiver Mario Manningham putting together his best game since his return from a knee injury, the 49ers should be able to have a lot more balance in the passing game.

Roman said the goal is always to get more players involved.

“I think that’s something that we definitely try to do in a lot of different ways,” Roman said, “whether it’s extra O-linemen getting in the game, spreading the ball around, having everybody contribute and I think that’s something that we can do a better job of moving forward.”