Michael Crabtree is getting his "Diva" label muddy and scratched up with some gritty downfield blocking. Asked about Crabtree's value in the run game on Thursday, offensive coordinator Greg Roman's eyes lit like sparklers.
"Great," Roman said of Crabtree. "Our receivers have been phenomenal. I challenge anybody to find any NFL receiving corps that blocks as hard and as well as our receivers. They have been phenomenal. It's a credit to John Morton, our receivers coach, as well obviously as the receivers themselves. They are inspiring with their effort."
Indeed, blocking at the second level of the defense - by receivers, fullbacks, tight ends and offensive linemen - has been the difference in the 49ers' rushing attack the last two games. Frank Gore averaged 2.5 yards a carry in Weeks 1-3. He's averaging 7.2 in the last two. Joshua Morgan's (broken leg) absence means the 49ers are without their best blocking receiver. But the drop off isn't as steep as it's been in recent years.
Left tackle Joe Staley was Crabtree's roommate during training camp. Maybe some blocking ability rubbed off on the receiver during the summer.
"We definitely notice when he's downfield blocking," Staley said. "And it's not just him, it's all the guys. Kyle (Williams) had a great block on one of those 50-yard runs we had on the outside. Josh was consistently one of those guys who blocked downfield. And Crabs is doing a great job. He's really, really played at a high level. We need him to step up this week in the passing game with Josh being out."
So, do Divas block like Crabtree? "What is a diva anyway?" Roman asked. "I don't know what that is. All I can tell you is this: our receivers are extremely physical in their blocking and it's inspiring to everybody."
So why did the injury that limited Crabtree earlier this season suddenly go from "foot" to "feet" on the official injury report? Did Crabtree, who broke his left foot June 6, injure the other foot, too?
No, the answer is more mundane than that. It seems the NFL supplies teams with a drop-down menu for listing injuries. There is no selection for "foot" on this menu, only "feet." Mystery solved.
-- Matt Barrows