SAN FRANCISCO -- For three seasons, the 49ers had every right to wonder whether they made the proper decision in selecting Michael Crabtree from a draft class full of standout wide receivers.
Crabtree's breakout performance this season ends any and all second-guessing as to whether the 49ers erred in bypassing the likes of Mike Wallace, Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks and Jeremy Maclin in the 2009 NFL draft.
Crabtree punctuated his season with eight catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Candlestick Park.
He finished with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns, all career-highs by a considerable margin, and is headed into the playoffs with every right to lay claim to being the best receiver from his draft class.
You won't find any arguments from Crabtree's teammates.
"He's panning out," tight end Vernon Davis said. "He's doing everything that he's supposed to do, everything that the coaches ask of him, and he's becoming a terrific player."
On Sunday, Crabtree also became a 1,000-yard receiver for the first time in his four-year NFL career. He has progressed each season, going from 625 yards his rookie season to 741 in 2010 and 874 last season.
"Crabtree has been unbelievable this season," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "And that's the way it should be. Each season, you're supposed to get better."
Just don't expect Crabtree to crow about his accomplishments, made even more impressive with a receiving corps missing Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams and defenses keying on Crabtree more and more.
"My dude made it happen," Crabtree said as he turned toward quarterback Colin Kaepernick at the podium. "I'm just running routes and trying to make plays."
Even more impressive, both of Crabtree's touchdowns came against Cardinals standout cornerback Patrick Peterson, including one in which he snared Kaepernick's pass despite the visual distraction provided by Peterson's going for the interception.
He also made a nice grab of a Kaepernick laserlike throw that he turned into a 49-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
However, his most impressive catch came on a sideline pass, where Crabtree reached high for a pass over his head and hauled it in with his right hand before running out of bounds.
"Remarkable," 49ers left offensive tackle Joe Staley said. "He's a beast, a big playmaker for us. He always comes up big."
Crabtree always has had impressive hands. In fact, coach Jim Harbaugh calls Crabtree's hands the best he has ever seen. Crabtree's leap in production this season owes more to his penchant for eluding defenders and turning short reception into long gainers.
"His yards after the catch are unbelievable," Staley said. "I don't think there's a better wide receiver in the NFL as far as yards after the catch, and you can probably back that up with stats."
No need. It was on full display here Sunday once again. Several times, Crabtree caught a short pass, juked the nearest defender and rambled for a first down and then some.
By now, Harbaugh has come to expect such exploits from Crabtree.
"He's done that all season long," Harbaugh said. "He's had a terrific season. He's done it so many times. In multiple games, he's given us a big lift or a spark."
Crabtree isn't among the nine 49ers selected to the Pro Bowl. Such accolades surely are on the horizon, at this rate.
That's fine as far as Crabtree is concerned. The thing he truly covets remains in play, thanks in large part to his consistent play all season.
"I'm trying to get to the Super Bowl," Crabtree said.
That's something Wallace, Britt, Nicks and Maclin can't accomplish this season.
With Crabtree, the 49ers stand a fighting chance, Davis said.
"That's what we got to have on this team in order to win championship games," Davis said of Crabtree's consistent play. "It's just a matter of time before a guy can learn the system and get a grasp of the NFL world. That's what he's doing. He's grasping it and he's taking off."