Curran: 49ers' Davis, Crabtree give it their all in loss


Curran: 49ers' Davis, Crabtree give it their all in loss

NEW ORLEANS When the Niners needed it on Sunday and man, did they need it they looked to get the ball to two players: Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

They almost helped lead the Niners out of the darkness and into the greatest comeback win in Super Bowl history.

On the Niners final offensive play of season it was Crabtree, attempting to fight through an apparent hold by Ravens corner Jimmy Smith, trying in vain to catch a Colin Kaepernick throw that fell just out of reach. And the Niners title hopes fell with it.

But it wasnt for lack of effort and it wasnt for lack of guts. The Ravens just got in the way.

"We knew we could come back," said Davis. "That's just the way to be, you have to believe and just attack it and that's what we did. And I think we did a terrific job as far as trying to stay under composure and keep under control and make plays."

The two players combined for 11 catches and 213 yards. Eighteen of Kaepernicks 28 attempts went to either the fourth-year wideout or the seventh-year tight end.

Crabtree kickstarted the post-outage comeback with a 31-yard touchdown catch that highlighted his receiving ability and post-catch toughness as he ran out of a Cary Williams tackle for the score. On the play preceding the touchdown, Davis went 18 yards with a Kaepernick throw to put the Niners at the Baltimore 31.

On the next Niners drive, it was Davis putting the hammer down on the Baltimore secondary, mashing down to the Baltimore 6 with a 14-yard reception.

If San Francisco was going to come back, it needed singularly brilliant efforts. And Davis and Crabtree had begun delivering them.

And they did until the very end.

"They probably changed their scheme up a little bit and some holes opened. We took advantage of them," said Davis. "I know one play, I had to run up the seam and Crab came out and turned up, we call it a stick route and he made the play. On other plays, I would get open, then Crab would get open. Then we found Randy Moss and Delanie Walker."

On the Niners final drive, when they were trying to finally erase the Ravens lead, Davis just missed hauling in a tough throw from Kaepernick down the right sideline.

On the next play, Crabtree went where the best receivers go over the middle to pull in a 24-yard reception and get the Niners into Ravens territory with 2:39 left.

A 33-yard burst by Frank Gore put the Niners in business at the Baltimore 7. But after a run by LaMichael James, the Niners called three seemingly low-percentage plays to Crabtree.

All three failed, and the final one, where Smith had Crabtree in a bear hug, will be discussed at length for a long time.

There was a time four seasons ago when Davis was singled out for as symbolic of what was wrong with the 49ers.

I want winners! ranted Mike Singletary and the implication was that Davis at that time was not.

Within a year of Singletarys rant, Crabtree was in the midst of a rookie holdout that helped derail his rookie season and make him a bit performer. Pain in the posterior was a possibility.

Sunday night in New Orleans, Davis and Crabtree along with the indescribable Kaepernick were the central figures for a 49ers offense that came so close to a win for the ages.

They lost Sunday night. But nobodys looking at Davis or Crabtree and wondering if theyre winners.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?


Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.