Michael Crabtree’s career day and dazzling catch-making display sent the San Francisco 49ers to another NFC West crown and into the playoffs with some much-needed momentum.
Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards and finished with a career-high 172 yards, leading the 49ers to a 27-13 victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday after a slow start.
Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs as the Niners (11-4-1) did their part to control the postseason picture — but were still waiting on Green Bay’s result at Minnesota to know whether they would earn the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing, breaking a tie with mentor Roger Craig and the late Hall of Famer Joe Perry.
Brian Hoyer went 19 of 34 for 225 yards and a late TD toss in his first career NFL start as Arizona’s fourth quarterback. The Cardinals (5-11) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games in what might have been Ken Whisenhunt’s final game as coach.
Crabtree’s outstanding outing was the best by a 49ers receiver since Terrell Owens’ 166-yard performance on Nov. 25, 2002, against Philadelphia.
Crabtree caught a 31-yard pass to set up his team-leading eighth TD reception on the next play. The sequence put him over 1,000 yards, giving San Francisco its first 1,000-yard receiver since T.O. in 2003.
The next series, Crabtree made a pretty, one-handed grab with his right hand along the left sideline on third-and-11 for a 19-yard gain and first down.
He made a 14-yard catch on fourth down late in the third, and later converted another fourth down with a reception of 7 yards.
What a boost for an injury-depleted receiving corps missing Mario Manningham for the rest of the season because of a knee injury and had tight end Vernon Davis limited a week after sustaining a concussion.