GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Michael Crabtree was a football magnet, from the 49ers' opening drive to their game-winning one as time expired in Sunday's 23-20, wild-card playoff win over the Green Bay Packers.

Crabtree's eight-reception, 125-yard outing had coach Jim Harbaugh overflowing with hyperbolic praise afterward.

"People talk about cold weather and it'd be tough to catch balls," Harbaugh said, referring to the 5-degree temperature at kickoff. "But the greatest catcher of all time, Michael Crabtree, catches everything. It's unbelievable.

"In the northern snowlands, down to the tropics' sunny scenes, he's catching the football. Where they throw a football, he'll be catching it."

On the first series alone, Crabtree caught passes for 14, 12, 13, and 31 yards. He failed to finish it off with a touchdown reception on a third-and-goal pass that could have -- but didn't -- draw a defensive pass-interference penalty.

But Crabtree's clutchest catches came on the final drive. He started it with an 11-yard reception to the 49ers' 31. Then on third-and-10, Colin Kaepernick stepped up in the pocket and completed a 17-yard strike to his longtime ally.

"He made big plays when we needed him, third-down plays, especially on that last drive," Kaepernick said. "Having him back on the field changes defenses."

Crabtree's other two receptions came in the third quarter, including a 22-yard snag.


Advertisement

This was just Crabtree's sixth game back after spending the preceding six months recovering from Achilles surgery. His eight receptions were a season-high, and they came two weeks after he produced a 102-yard outing against the Atlanta Falcons.

Although tight end Vernon Davis had the 49ers' only touchdown catch Sunday, he spread the credit around, and Crabtree certainly deserved part of it.

"One thing I love about this team is that when we start to struggle and it gets tough, they continue to keep on pushing and they don't give up," Davis said. "They give all that they have, every inch of their body, and they just keep on coming."

Signifying that best just might be the one-inch scar above Crabtree's right heel, where his Achilles was repaired to the point that he's contributing this postseason as much as last year's.

Greatest catcher of all time?

"That I've seen. I've said that before, that's not new," Harbaugh said. "If my life depended on it and somebody had to catch a ball, I'd enlist Michael Crabtree to do it.

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.

---