49ers rewind: Crabtree adds immediate punch

The 49ers gave a one-half preview last Sunday of what their passing attack might look like when they travel to Indianapolis this week. And their first-round draft pick, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, gave a possible preview of great things to come in his NFL debut.

Quarterback Alex Smith replaced Shaun Hill in the second half against the Texans and engineered three touchdown drives, ending each of them with scoring passes to tight end Vernon Davis.

And the 49ers got their first glimpse of the heralded Crabtree, the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft. Crabtree made an impressive debut for the 49ers after he ended a 71-day contract stalemate when he signed a six-year contract on Oct. 7.

Crabtree finished with five receptions for 56 yards, but his pro debut was more impressive than those numbers might suggest. He was able to get open and made several tough catches in traffic, showing fearlessness to go for the football and also terrific hands to secure it.

"It was evident yesterday (what Crabtree can do)," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said Monday. "I just wanted to see it on film just like when you see a good movie. You want to see it again. All of the hard work that he did while he wasn't here, it showed. All of the studying that he did while he wasn't here, it showed. So, it was good to see."

Crabtree stepped into the starting lineup and led all San Francisco wideouts in receptions. He also showed plenty of signs of being the same productive playmaker he was during his record-setting college career at Texas Tech.

"I kind of practiced on being calm and coming into the game knowing what I'm supposed to do and executing plays," Crabtree said. "I think I did a good job, and I think I have some more work to do."

Crabtree is already the team's best receiver. At least, he played more snaps in Sunday's game than any of the 49ers' other wideouts.

The 49ers spent top-10 draft picks to select Smith, Davis and Crabtree. At one time or another, each of those players has not been popular with 49ers fans.

Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. He went almost two full seasons without playing after sustaining a separated right shoulder early in the 2007 season. Hill beat him out for the 49ers' starting job in training camp after Smith accepted a dramatic pay cut to remain with the organization.

Smith completed 15 of 22 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns, which tied a career-high. His passer rating of 118.6 was the second-highest of his 33-game NFL career.

Singletary announced Monday the 49ers will go back to Smith as their starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Colts. Smith's first NFL start came against Indianapolis in his rookie year.

"I wasn't surprised," Davis said. "I knew what he was going to do."

Davis was viewed as an underachiever after being the sixth pick of the 2006 draft. But Davis has been the 49ers' best offensive player through six games. He leads the 49ers with 29 receptions for 355 yards and six touchdowns.

Crabtree showed glimpses of his vast potential, with four of his five receptions coming on third downs and three of them moving the chains to extend drives. He is likely entrenched as the team's starting split end from this point forward.

"I'm looking forward our next game," Crabtree said.

LINEUP WATCH: Crabtree earned a starting job. Now the 49ers must look at who will join him. Second-year player Josh Morgan might be a better option to play flanker than Isaac Bruce, a 16-year pro who is showing his age. Morgan is second on the 49ers (behind Davis) with 17 receptions for 264 yards.

TRENDING: The 49ers might be regretting their decision to release return specialist Allen Rossum two weeks ago to create a roster spot for Crabtree. Arnaz Battle has struggled on punt returns. He has muffed two punts, including one that led directly to a touchdown against the Texans. At least the 49ers got some production from new kickoff returner Michael Robinson, who averaged 31.3 yards on three kick returns against the Texans.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--- QB Nate Davis, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback, remained home with an illness. He did not make the trip to play against the Texans on Sunday.

--- RT Tony Pashos underwent an MRI exam on Monday to determine the extent of his left shoulder injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game. Pashos made his first start with the 49ers on Sunday against the Texans but suffered a shoulder contusion.

--- LB Takeo Spikes sustained a right shoulder strain and did not return. He also underwent an MRI exam Monday. Rookie Scott McKillop took over and made three tackles in place of Spikes.

--- WR Brandon Jones, who signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract in the offseason, was inactive for Sunday's game. However, the deep threat might work his way back into a role with Smith becoming the team's starting quarterback. Smith and Jones hooked up early in training camp on several deep passes before Jones sustained an injury that knocked him out of action for nearly two months.

--- RB Frank Gore returned to action and played the entire game Sunday against the Texans after missing two games with a bad right ankle. Gore did not have much success. He rushed 13 times for 32 yards, and caught just two passes for 15 yards.



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