STARTING WIDE RECEIVER Josh Morgan had as many catches as Michael Crabtree in the 49ers' home-opening win Sunday: zero.
That was just fine with Morgan, the undefeated 49ers and especially running back Frank Gore, who reeled off two of the longest touchdown runs in team history with the help of Morgan's blocking.
While Crabtree remains unsigned five long months after being drafted 10th overall, the 49ers have moved on without him. Boy, have they.
Crabtree is missing the start of something special. Pity the poor fool? Nope. He could be here. He could be a rich fool. He's not. He's Ferris Bueller, cavorting elsewhere while school is in session.
Sunday's 23-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks is a perfect example of what the 49ers are, with or without Crabtree.
They are reliant upon Gore, Gore and more Gore. Yet they also need flawless game management from quarterback Shaun Hill (6-0 lifetime at Candlestick), plus occasional stout defense from their "pass rushers" and marquee cornerback Nate Clements.
The 49ers (2-0) won Sunday when all those worlds aligned. It didn't hurt that the Seahawks (1-1) were injury ravaged, playing without 10 would-be starters by game's end, including their two most critical — quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (bruised ribs) and linebacker Lofa Tatupu (hamstring).
But, hey, the 49ers had to play without Crabtree. Big void? Not really. His leverage shrinks with every win, if he even had any left once the season started.
It's not as if these 49ers would go deep to Crabtree if he were to show up this week for a true test at Minnesota. These 49ers aren't that gutsy on offense. Their long-bomb threat is a Gore run up the gut. Or, as in Sunday's case, two such runs.
As for their receivers, they're contributing and not simply watching Gore in awe like the 69,732 who showed up for the Candlestick opener (or for the halftime celebration for exiled ex-owner Eddie DeBartolo, who was enshrined in the team's new hall of fame).
Morgan is starting at the position earmarked five months ago for Crabtree. In the Mike Singletary Era, a 49ers wide receiver may not be a vital weapon, but that doesn't exempt one from the heavy lifting.
"I didn't have a catch, but I made key blocks," Morgan said. "It feels good. Now I know how a fullback feels with a sore shoulder from blocking. It feels good."
Would Crabtree be as unselfish and throw those blocks? Maybe. We don't know. Perhaps we never will, if he insanely skips this season and re-enters the draft.
Morgan was a sixth-round draft pick last year. He reportedly signed a four-year, $1.8 million contract with a $106,000 signing bonus. That is roughly, oh, $38.2 million shy of what Crabtree wants to make the same downfield blocks as Morgan.
But wouldn't Crabtree create a greater threat to catch touchdown passes? Maybe. We don't know. Perhaps we never will.
And so we have Morgan, a 6-foot, 219-pound kid who is happy to be here, at a place whose sterling history he knows quite well. He evoked that knowledge when discussing the blocks he threw for Gore (not far from the line of scrimmage) on those 79- and 80-yard touchdown runs.
"That's how they did it in the old 49ers days, how Jerry Rice used to give the blocks for Roger Craig," Morgan said. "I feel like I did that."
Now before we go comparing him to Rice — who attended the DeBartolo enshrinement along with Craig and other greats — we should point out that Morgan has three career touchdown catches, or 194 behind Rice's NFL record.
But you have to admire Morgan's willingness to do what's asked of him in this modern 49ers era. It's dirty work that the 49ers can't pay Crabtree enough to do.
"We always knew how good a back Frank is," Morgan said of Gore, who ran for only 30 yards in last week's season opener. "Coach preached, 'Let him run, let him run.' It was an enjoyment to see him run.
"He hasn't thanked me yet. But he will when he sees the film."
A few minutes later, Gore thanked Morgan and the rest of his blockers during the postgame news conference. Gore first credited his linemen and the referee for springing him loose on the first touchdown run, and then he praised left tackle Joe Staley and Morgan on the 80-yard encore that opened the second half.
"Josh did a great job sealing off the edge," Gore said. "I saw the cutback and hit it."
Also making key blocks on both runs was tight end Vernon Davis.
"Just hustling," Davis explained.
The 49ers need hustlers like him and Morgan. As for the type Crabtree appears to be, enough said.
Contact Cam Inman at firstname.lastname@example.org.