Smith-Crabtree connection picks up where run game left off

Smith-Crabtree connection picks up where run game left off
October 30, 2012, 5:56 am
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 49ers established their run game in the first quarter.And when the Arizona Cardinals established the fact they were going to load up in hopes of preventing running back Frank Gore from having continued success on the ground, the 49ers were able to do something that has not always come easily.They turned seamlessly to quarterback Alex Smith and the passing game for a 24-3 rout of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.MAIOCCO'S INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers make Monday night statement
Smith enjoyed a record-setting night as he completed 18 of 19 passing attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Smith's passer rating was 157.1, just a shade below a perfect rating of 158.3.Smith's 94.7 completion percentage sets the NFL single-game record with a minimum of 15 passes attempted. Craig Morton (Denver, 1981) and Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota, 1977) previously shared the record at 94.4 percent by completing 17 of 18 attempts.
"I wasn't worried about any incompletions or anything like that," Smith said. "I was just kind of in a good rhythm. The whole offense was."Midway through the season, Smith tops the NFL with a 69.4 completion percentage. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is second with a 69.0 completion percentage. Smith's only incomplete throw Monday came in the second quarter when tight end Delanie Walker dropped a pass.Tight end Vernon Davis had his third consecutive quiet game. Davis caught two passes for 34 yards. But this time, some of the 49ers' other players were able to pick up the slack.Wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and Randy Moss got involved with a 47-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter."It was fun to see guys in space and getting the ball to them quick and letting them make plays," Smith said. "Guys were having fun. Randy had the great block on Crabtree's third-down conversion in the third quarter and then to seen him turn around and make the play on his touchdown run was fun."Perhaps the most encouraging play from the 49ers offense came on a play in which Crabtree was not wide open. Crabtree's first touchdown came on a 3-yard pass in which Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson had tight coverage at the goal line.Crabtree has yearned to get more passes thrown his way even on plays in which a defender is nearby. Smith has often been reluctant to attempt to throw the ball into tight windows. But Smith finally gave Crabtree that chance when he threw quickly to beat an all-out blitz. "I just tried to get it out before the DB could turn around," Smith said, "and Crab made a great catch."Said Crabtree, "Yeah, that's really my first time getting it in the red zone, and I've been working so hard with him at practice to be a threat in the red zone and he trusted me. Alex Smith threw it up and I just went to go get it."The 49ers' victory improves their record to 6-2 and extends their lead in the NFC West to two full games over the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals fell to 4-4 after opening the season with four consecutive victories.After the 49ers' offense sputtered in back-to-back games against the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers showed good balance against a Cardinals defense that entered the game ranked No. 7 in the NFL.Coach Jim Harbaugh characterized the victory as a "good team win," but he pointed to Crabtree's effort with yards after the catch as well as his willingness to fight off Peterson to score the first touchdown of the game."It was a great play by Michael," Harbaugh said. "It was a great throw by Alex, really strong hands catch by Michael Crabtree, and Alex lasered it right in there. It was very good coverage, very contested coverage and great catch, strong catch."Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter helped set the tone for the 49ers' offense, as they combined for 66 yards rushing on 11 carries. Gore said the Cardinals then moved an eighth defender in the box in hopes of forcing the 49ers to turn to their passing game.Left tackle Joe Staley, who lost 10 pounds last week with a nasty case of pneumonia, said he saw a TV interview earlier Monday in which one of the Cardinals defensive backs said their goal was to make Alex Smith try to beat them."And he beat their (butts)," Staley said.After initial success on the ground, Gore finished with 55 yards rushing on 16 carries. Hunter had 43 yards on 10 rushing attempts.
Smith had a lot of help from Crabtree, who had the second two-touchdown game of his career. Crabtree scored his second touchdown when he caught a third-and-goal pass at the 7-yard line, made a move of Peterson and scored for a 9-yard touchdown.Crabtree also had a 22-yard reception in the second quarter on a third-and-23 play to set up David Akers for a 43-yard field goal.In the third quarter, Moss joined the fun with he schooled rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming on a 47-yard catch-and-run for his second touchdown with the 49ers."It was just great execution from the whole offense," Moss said. "Great protection from the O-line. It was a five-wide-receiver set, so we didn't really have the ends protected. The O-line protected, the quarterback delivered, I caught it, ran and had some blocks downfield and it was as simple as that."It was Moss' only catch of the game, but it made an impression on both sides of the ball."He's still got it," 49ers safety Dashon Goldson said. "People still ask me, 'Is Moss still fast?' He showed it out there. It was big time."Said Crabtree, "That guy's been doing it for so long, and I was just happy to see it. I was smiling from ear to ear."Moss said he was also pleased to see Crabtree come up big with a couple of touchdowns."Crab's having a good year," Moss said. "It's good to see guys that you come to work with every day out there making plays. Crab made some key plays in the first half. He's having a hell of a year. I hope it continues."

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