49ers vs. Cardinals: Michael Crabtree and a Coming out Party of 3

Joe LevittContributor IIIOctober 30, 2012

Crabtree streaks to the end zone for his second TD.
Crabtree streaks to the end zone for his second TD.Norm Hall/Getty Images

So much for one of those closely fought divisional matchups.

Michael Crabtree and the 49ers traveled into the territory of the one-time division-leading Arizona Cardinals and scoffed at the notion of competitive balance.

When the clock struck zero with 24-3 flashing in the Arizona night sky, the Cardinals were reduced to something entirely less than what a 4-4 record would indicate. It was a game where the home team never led—let alone attain one yard per carry on the ground.

The predominant storyline of this NFC West matchup, then, was the visiting 49ers and their most productive offensive trio. Alex Smith, Crabtree and a certain Randy Moss all represented near perfection on the gridiron.

Smith set an NFL record with a 94.7 completion percentage after connecting on 18-of-19 passes for 232 yards. Despite being an unprecedented accomplishment in terms of passes completed with a minimum of 15 attempts, it was technically unofficial by not occurring within the parameters of 20-plus throws.

In any case, Smith enhanced that “unofficial” record with three touchdowns and a 157.1 passer rating that fell just short of the perfect 158.3.

San Francisco’s QB did take a couple unnecessary sacks, but his only real shortcoming in the box score was an incompletion that resulted from a dropped pass by Delanie Walker. Otherwise, he held firm in the pocket, went through his progressions and was accurate on sideline-outs, intermediate passes and throws down the field.

Most importantly, he relegated poor performances in recent weeks to yesterday’s news.

Coming in on the receiving end of Smith’s near perfect metrics were the 49ers’ top two receivers. Randy Moss—the purported deep-threat downfield—and Crabtree—a receiver who many had written off long ago.

The two-time Fred Biletnikoff winner made sure that his prolific college-level reputation would continue to translate into NFL success.

Crabtree hauled in all five passes thrown his way by Alex Smith on Monday night. He made an exceptional touchdown grab on a front-corner fade against Patrick Peterson and later burned Arizona’s best in the red zone for the 49ers’ second touchdown.

He not only matched his career high for single-game touchdowns but did so with great hands, elusive maneuvering in the open field and excellent yards-after-the-catch production. The former first-round pick lived up to his draft status in Week 8 of the 2012 season.

Then, there was one of the all-time legends showing that a year off from football is a move that all 30-something professionals should consider.

While running a nifty arrow route to the left sideline, 35-year-old Randy Moss apparently missed the memo regarding his obsolete skill set. Moss took rookie Jamell Fleming—and the entire Cardinals defense for that matter—to school with a collection of sidesteps, jukes and breakaway speed en route to a 47-yard touchdown catch.

It was his 18th TD in 18 career Monday Night games and the 156th for his career (fourth all time).

In one fell swoop, Moss showed why the 49ers maintain an open roster spot for him, despite limited box-score production overall. Keeping in mind his concerted effort on a lethal downfield block on this latest version of MNF and questioning Moss’ place in the NFL seem like an antiquated critique.

Moss may never officially be “back,” but it certainly appears he never really left.

The three players who generally inspire the greatest amount of skepticism—Smith, Crabtree, Moss—were actually the three players who contributed the most to the 49ers win on Monday night.

Just remember to tip the 49ers defense on your way out.


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