Michael Crabtree helped spark the 49ers' second-half surge on Monday, and he finished with 102 receiving yards, his first 100-yard outing of the season. But the man who will be covering him in Sunday's finale doesn't think the 49ers' wideout has fully returned from his torn Achilles' tendon.
"He's slowly getting back into the groove, like he's trying to get back in game shape, get back moving the way he used to," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said Thursday. "You can tell he doesn't look as comfortable as he did when he was healthy. That's going to come with time."
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians agreed. "I do not see the same guy," he said of Crabtree. "But he's getting really close."
The Cardinals - and Peterson in particular - know exactly what a fully healthy Crabtree looks like and is capable of. He missed the first meeting between the teams on Oct. 13. Last year, however, he had two of his best games against Peterson and Arizona. In the first meeting, he had five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns. In the finale, he had the best game of his career - eight catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman noted that it's only natural that Crabtree isn't yet at his 2012 form. "How many games has he played? Four?" Roman said today. "That's like the preseason for most people - with no training camp."
Still, Crabtree's impact is undeniable. He's been on hand for all but one game of the 49ers' five-game winning streak. And Colin Kaepernick's quarterback rating - 89.9 on the season - has been 98.3 in the four games in which Crabtree has been among his targets. He has more receiving yards -- 255 -- in four games than every 49ers wide receiver aside from Anquan Boldin had combined (243) in the 11 games before his return.
Peterson certainly wasn't trying to diss his opponent. On the contrary, he said the speed at which Crabtree has returned from his injury is impressive.
"He still can get away from defensive backs," Peterson said. "He still has the ability to take the top off the defenses and things like that. He does a great job of gaining yards after the catch. He reminds me of a Dez Bryant, a guy that is tough to tackle once he gets a ball in his hands."
Added Peterson with a chuckle: "He looked really, really good Monday. Hopefully he doesn't look good Sunday."
- Matt Barrows