Cardinals vs. 49ers: Michael Crabtree Has Career Day En Route to NFC West Title

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterDecember 30, 2012

December 30, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) celebrates with tackle Joe Staley (74) after a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After one quarter of play, the Cardinals made it seem like the 49ers would have a dog fight on their hands for the next 45 minutes. But all it took was a 49-yard touchdown reception from Michael Crabtree to get the 49ers' offense kick-started.

From that point on, San Francisco went on to score 20 more unanswered points. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick led the charge by finishing with a career high 276 yards. It also marked the fourth game this season where he had a passer rating above 100 (114.6).

The uptick in performance from weeks past was a good confidence builder as the 49ers' head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed with a first-round bye. San Francisco can thank Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings for knocking off the Green Bay Packers in a four quarter shootout that ended 37-34.

But before we get too far into the playoff talk, let's take a step back and examine Crabtree's career day. No. 15 hit two milestones today: he became the first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens did it for the 49ers in 2003, and he set a personal best by piling up 172 yard receiving through the air.

Moreover, his impressive stat line doesn't have the ability to quantify how huge his one-handed grab was or his fourth-down catch that went for 14 yards. There's no question that Crabtree's chemistry with the second-year quarterback out of Nevada is head and shoulders above where it was with Alex Smith.

Since Kap took over as the starter Week 11, Crabtree has caught five touchdown passes and registered three 100-yard games. When Smith was under center, he had one 100-yard game in 2012 with four touchdown receptions.

Kaepernick taking over for Smith is proving to be just what the doctor ordered in terms of jump-starting his career.

And to be honest it couldn't have come at a better time. 

His two-touchdown performance signaled the fourth multi-touchdown game of his career. It also signaled the fourth touchdown pass he has caught in the last three weeks. After last season's inept passing display in the NFC Championship game, Crabtree may just prove to be the difference in the 49ers' 2012 playoff run.

#49ers RB Frank Gore scores from 2-yard out, giving him 51 rushing TDs, most in franchise history.

San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 30, 2012

However, Crabtree and Kaepernick weren't the only two with record-setting days.

Frank Gore's two-yard touchdown run early on in the fourth quarter gave him the most rushing touchdowns in franchise history. His 51 rushing touchdowns eclipsed the record that was previously held by Roger Craig and Joe Perry.

With a week off, San Francisco will be glued to the Vikings vs. Packers and Seahawks vs.Redskins/Cowboys playoff matchups.