BALTIMORE – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree doesn’t ask for the football. He doesn’t go into the huddle and tell Derek Carr he’s open or beating his man regularly.
He doesn’t need to ask. Carr finds Crabtree a ton.
The 29-year old has been targeted 36 times in the first four games and has 26 receptions. He catches virtually everything, and has become Carr’s go-to guy in the clutch.
On Sunday, he showed why. Crabtree had seven receptions for 88 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-27 victory over the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, including the game winner with roughly two minutes remaining.
“They had the corners shading me outside all day,” Crabtree said. “DC coached me up on that last play, and told me, ‘don’t stop running.’ We executed the play, and the result was a touchdown.”
Only because he dragged his foot in a full spring just inches from the baseline. He got both feet down and the Raiders completed their second fourth-quarter comeback in the first four games.
Crabtree has been clutch all season. He has a crucial touchdown against Atlanta, was a third-down ball magnet against Tennessee and, of course, caught that game-winning 2-point conversion in New Orleans.
Head coach Jack Del Rio compared Crabtree’s sure hands to Hall of Famer Cris Carter, and that he has gotten even more than expected from him.
“He has been a great leader for us,” Del Rio said. “There were questions brought up (about that).That hasn’t been part of what we’re getting. We’re getting a guy who is a great teammate, who works hard every day and is very friendly for our quarterback.
He’s going through a career renaissance in Oakland after struggling to fit in at the end of his 49ers tenure. This was a guy left on the 2015 free agent market for a full month. Now he’ll be a Raider through 2019 after he signed a $34 million extension late last year.
Quarterback Derek Carr knew Crabtree was a sleeping giant and wanted him to stay in Oakland.
“When he became a free agent after my rookie year, and he came to visit us, I tried everything I could to make sure he left our building a Raider,” Carr said. “I know the kind of talent he is. I’m so thankful that he chose to stay in the Bay Area. The guy is a game-changer, and one of the best receivers in this league.”
“…I didn’t promise him catches or touchdowns, but I said that, if we worked hard and grew together, we could do something special.”
That has happened several times this season. Carr to Crabtree has become a productive pairing, which Crabtree believes in the best of his career.
“It’s no secret,” Crabtree said. “I’ll say I’m grateful to be in this situation and thankful. I’m going to keep working. The sky’s the limit for this team.”