The last time San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree went up against the Chicago Bears, it was back in 2012. A week 11 matchup where 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick guided the team to a victory, it was Crabtree who benefited as he hauled in three catches for 31 yards and one touchdown. So what can the Forever Faithful expect from Crabtree this time around? Well considering the Bears have a different defensive coordinator in Mel Tucker while using a 4-3-4 alignment in an under front, expect Crabtree to benefit as the quick slants should be open.
In their last meeting, Crabtree hauled in a 11-yard touchdown reception, as he found a soft spot in zone coverage on a post-corner-route aka 7-route. Look for more of that as Crabtree goes up against CB Charles Tillman.
A former first-team All-Pro in 2012, the player known as Peanut did a nice job wrapping up Crabtree that season. However, this is a different season and with Crabtree continuing to build a strong rapport with his franchise quarterback that should bode well for him, as he looks to score for the first time in 2014.
The Bears love to give two-high safety looks pre-snap while then rolling one of the safeties in the deep-third. If this happens that usually means that the mike linebacker (middle linebacker) will take away the middle hook zone while the other two outside linebackers drop back to cover the curl/flat routes. A simplistic defense in a bend but don’t break approach, look for 49ers OC Greg Roman to exploit this vanilla defense while using Crabtree on quick slants and dig-routes.
No linebacker can stay stride-for-stride with Crabtree and realizing that the Bears linebackers are often asked to drop back in coverage, look for Crabtree to take full advantage of the situation as he’s one of the better possession receivers in the NFL. Whether finding soft spots in zone coverage or improvising his route on a broken play, Crabtree should have a nice game on Sunday night when the lights come on!
Aside from Crabtree’s strong football IQ it’s his ability to separate from cornerbacks one-on-one that will likely land him many targets. Tillman at times will try and jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage while forcing an inside release. If this happens, Crabtree should be able to shine with some catch-and-go hot-routes. Not to mention, the NFL referees are emphasizing defensive holding this season, that should help Crabtree on his release as he fights his way to the open spot.
With the 49ers preparing to face two solid cornerbacks in both CB Tim Jennings and Tillman, look for Crabtree to benefit as I predict him to have a stat line around six catches for 80 yards and one touchdown.