LANDOVER, Md. -- Michael Crabtree didn't make his season debut Monday night, but the 49ers are expected to activate the wide receiver Tuesday, his final eligible day on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said after Monday's 27-6 win over Washington that Crabtree is "coming back next week," suggesting he might debut Sunday when the 49ers host the St. Louis Rams.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin said Crabtree doesn't just add depth but also is "another playmaker on the outside, another dimension that we need."
Crabtree said he's "all right" but doesn't know what the 49ers have in store for him. He tore his right Achilles on May 21 and returned to practice three weeks ago. He participated in a light workout before Monday's game, running routes and catching passes in gray sweats.
General manager Trent Baalke said the 49ers were considering several options to create a spot for Crabtree on the 53-man roster. Sturdy defense meant a busy night for punt returner LaMichael James, who set up the 49ers' final touchdown with a 40-yard return to the Washington 39. "We've got a return game, and it was good to remind that to everyone and ourselves," Harbaugh said.
James averaged 14.4 yards on five returns. He recovered his own muffed punt to start the fourth quarter. Said James: "I'm happy to be making a (contribution) to the team. No team in the NFL is better at scoring off take-aways than the 49ers, and they did so for a 19th straight time Monday night, when Donte Whitner's interception led to a 29-yard field goal by Phil Dawson for a 10-0 lead.
Of those 19 take-aways, 11 resulted in touchdowns, eight in field goals. Dawson's field goal raised the 49ers' league-leading total to 105 points off take-aways. Seattle ranks second with 88 points. It was Whitner's second interception this season, matching his single-season career highs from 2009 and 2011. Frank Gore ran for his second-fewest yards this season, carrying 13 times for 31 yards (2.4 average). Kendall Hunter averaged only 1.5 yards a carry, with eight for 12 yards. Although 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick again looked a lot toward Boldin (five receptions, 94 yards, two touchdowns) and Vernon Davis (four catches, 70 yards, one touchdown), Mario Manningham, playing in his third game of the season, got targeted a season-high seven times and caught four passes for 45 yards. Manningham had four catches for 38 yards in his previous two games since returning from a knee injury. Cornerback Tarell Brown (ribs) missed his first game since 2010 but is not a candidate for injured reserve. Brown likely will return to action Dec. 8 against the Seattle Seahawks. He didn't practice last week and was ruled out Saturday. Eric Wright started in his place. Left guard Mike Iupati's left-knee sprain forced him to miss the first game of his four-year career. Adam Snyder started in his place. The 49ers had started the same five offensive linemen the previous 29 games. Defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie earned praised from Harbaugh after starting a second straight game in place of Ray McDonald (ankle). The game-time temperature was 35 degrees, though that mark got listed at least 40 minutes before kickoff. That's one degree warmer than last December's win at New England, which was the 49ers' coldest game since 2010. Dan Skuta started an eighth straight game at right outside linebacker. Aldon Smith replaced Skuta on the third snap, assuming the pass-rush specialist role. Also out for the 49ers were tight end Garrett Celek (hamstring), wideout Quinton Patton (foot), quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and defensive tackle Tank Carradine. Josh Morgan, who played for the 49ers from 2008-2011, started for Washington at wide receiver and made all five of his catches (45 yards) before halftime. Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, was in attendance. Blandino last week stood by a personal-foul penalty against the 49ers' Ahmad Brooks for a hit to the neck of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. While FedEx Field unveiled new sod down the middle of the field, the old turf outside the numbers proved slippery from the start. Washington's Niles Paul slipped while returning the opening kickoff 12 yards, and Kaepernick lost his footing on a second-quarter scramble that went down as a 4-yard sack. Morgan slipped on a second-quarter sideline reception. Washington didn't suit up three starters: tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee) and fullback Darrel Young (hamstring). Washington extended its NFL-best streak to 382 consecutive home sellouts, including postseason games. All 49ers home games since 1981 have been sold out at Candlestick Park, which has only three regular-season games remaining.