SANTA CLARA -- One catch. Three yards.
The 49ers season came to an end in the NFC Championship game last season, and wide receiver Michael Crabtree had that stat line staring back at him for the entire offseason.
In the locker room afterward and again the next day, Crabtree spoke about lacking the opportunities to make plays in the 49ers' 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants. He spoke in vague terms, careful not to publicly criticize quarterback Alex Smith.
On Wednesday, Crabtree was asked whether he feels this quarterback really looks for him.
"This quarterback?" Crabtree asked. "I wouldn't put it like this. We're making a lot of plays on Sunday. That's just the regular season."
The 49ers return to the NFC playoffs on Saturday with a divisional-round game against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park.
Crabtree's production has increased after Colin Kaepernick took over from Smith as the starter. In the final five games of the regular season, Crabtree had 535 receiving yards with four touchdowns with the strong-armed Kaepernick throwing more passes outside the numbers.
"We've been here before," Crabtree said. "Last year we came up a little short. I feel like I got a little chip on my shoulder right now and I can't wait to go back out there for the playoffs. Big stage, big game for us. I feel like we're ready to perform."
Crabtree caught a touchdown pass early in the 49ers' opening playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints a year ago. But he dropped a couple passes later in the game and was virtually shut out against the Giants.
"That was last year," Crabtree said. "I don't really know what happened. We're talking about opportunity. And I said something about that after the game last year. I meant it. I'm a football player. This is what I do for a living, and I love it. I feel like this year is different. It's a different year. I feel like we just have to go out there and do our job, focus on our job, focus on my job. As a whole, we should be all right."
Throughout the offseason, Crabtree said he was driven by that empty feeling of not producing in the biggest moment of the season. For the first time since arriving as the No. 10 overall draft pick in 2009, Crabtree was healthy for the entire offseason. He is running better than at any point in his first three seasons, and he became the 49ers' first player since Terrell Owens in 2003 to produce more than 1,000 yards receiving.
The team-wide goal was to get back to this point.
"It drove us a lot," said Crabtree, who caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. "I feel like we need to win. I want to go to the Super Bowl. I want to do all those things, but we have to take it one game at a time. Green Bay is in front of us right now. I think we just need to take care of our business."