Key pieces in place for rematch with Panthers

YSTL: How much of a difference does Crabtree make for Kaepernick?

Key pieces in place for rematch with Panthers
January 8, 2014, 7:15 am
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The 49ers’ offense averaged 308.5 yards in the 11 games without Michael Crabtree, and they’re averaging 361.2 yards with him. (AP)

Programming note: Watch Wednesday’s 49ers press conference with Jim Harbaugh, Joe Staley and Frank Gore live on CSN Bay Area and streaming live right here at 11:55 a.m.   

The 49ers will look much different Sunday than the team the Carolina Panthers defeated at Candlestick Park on Nov. 10.

Fullback Bruce Miller, who played 31 of the 49ers’ 53 snaps that day in the 49ers’ 10-9 loss, is out of action with a broken scapula. And wide receiver Mario Manningham, who led the 49ers that day with three catches for 30 yards, is on injured reserve, too.

[WEEK 10 REWIND: Panthers 10, 49ers 9]

But eight other 49ers who figure to see action on Sunday did not play or were limited due to injuries:

WR Michael Crabtree: He sat out the first 11 games of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon. Crabtree has joined Anquan Boldin to supply the 49ers with, in essence, two No. 1 receivers. Crabtree is coming off his best game -- an eight-catch, 125-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.

When Crabtree was not on the field, the 49ers had no threats other than Boldin at wide receiver. Teams such as the Panthers could stack the box and focus on stopping Frank Gore. Still, Gore gained 82 yards on 16 carries against the No. 2 defense in the league during the regular season.

The 49ers managed just 151 total yards on offense against the Panthers. In fact, the 49ers’ offense averaged 308.5 yards in the 11 games without Crabtree. And they’re averaging 361.2 yards with Crabtree.

[RELATED: Rivera: Stopping Kaepernick will be tougher]

TE Vernon Davis: He sustained a concussion midway through the second quarter and played only 22 snaps (42 percent). When healthy, Davis is on the field for every offensive snap. He had one catch for 2 yards against the Panthers.

TE Garrett Celek: It might not seem like a big deal, but Celek did not play any snaps on offense after sustaining a hamstring strain on an early-game play on special teams. The team's No. 3 tight end would’ve played a lot in the second half with Davis out. And because the 49ers did not have their usual short-yardage personnel, they were ill-equipped to go for it on a fourth-and-1 from the Carolina 2-yard line in the second quarter after Davis was injured.

WR Quinton Patton: He was still recovering from a broken right foot. Patton now serves as the 49ers’ No. 3 receiver.

OLB Aldon Smith: His replacement, Dan Skuta, had a solid game. But Skuta is no Aldon Smith. Smith had just returned to the 49ers after taking a voluntary leave of absence to enter into treatment for substance abuse. He played just 12 of the 49ers’ 66 defensive snaps. He did not register a tackle, sack or quarterback pressure.

DL Ray McDonald: He sustained a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter and played just 18 snaps in the game. That meant a lot more playing time for Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs. Jerod-Eddie, in particular, had an outstanding game for a 49ers’ defense that held the Panthers to 250 total yards.

[Related: Panthers WR Smith will play vs. 49ers -- but how much?]

FS Eric Reid: He sustained a concussion, and appeared to be knocked out, after putting his head down and taking on 245-pound fullback Mike Tolbert in the middle of the third quarter. Reid played the first 37 snaps of the game before leaving the game. He was replaced by Craig Dahl.

ST/WR Kassim Osgood: It was certainly curious at the time when the 49ers decided to give wide receiver Jon Baldwin a chance and they deactivated Osgood, one of the team’s top special-teams players. Carolina’s Ted Ginn returned a punt 25 yards in the fourth quarter to set up Graham Gano’s game-winning 53-yard field goal. Osgood has been active every game since.

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