SANTA CLARA -- This is the way Michael Crabtree has always expected to play, and the way everyone else expected him to play, too.
Like the star he was in college -- dominant, graceful, unavoidable, unstoppable ... and all pointed to this Saturday's playoff game against Green Bay.
"It's not surprising; just a healthy Crabtree," running back Frank Gore said of Crabtree's recent burst of production.
"That's Texas Tech Crabtree."
The last five games certainly have been different from Crabtree's previous 49ers performance level, separated by Crabtree's health, consistency, elusiveness, and his clear connection to new quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
His first 53 NFL games were adequate but unspectacular and were occasionally weighed down by foot and leg injuries.
The last five have been Crabtree as Superman.
He has 35 receptions in those five games, four for touchdowns, and averaged 107.6 yards, which led to Crabtree establishing career highs in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,015) and touchdowns (nine).
On Wednesday, I asked him: Is this production surge partly due to the great chemistry with Kaepernick, who started the last seven games of the regular season?
"Yeah," Crabtree said. "I mean, you see it."
The stats: In the last five games, Kaepernick has targeted Crabtree an average of 11.2 times, almost double his target rate in the previous 11 games.
Crabtree is getting open, Kaepernick is finding him, and the more they do it, the better it has gotten between the two.
To be fair, Crabtree also said that it's just about opportunity and that everybody on offense needs to play well.
And Crabtree makes it clear that he understands the playoffs are a whole other enterprise, and that his performance last postseason didn't meet anybody's standards.
"I feel like I've got a little chip on my shoulder right now and I can't wait to go back out there for the playoffs," Crabtree said. "Big stage, big game for us as an offense and defense and special teams ... as a team, you know?
"I feel like we're just ready to perform."
In the 49ers' two playoff games last season, as the rest of the receiving corps was blighted by injury, Crabtree was a nonfactor.
He had a combined five catches for 28 yards (and one touchdown) in the two playoff games, and just one catch (in five targets) in the loss to the New York Giants.
Crabtree also had three drops in the victory over New Orleans.
Partially as a response, the 49ers signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss and drafted A.J. Jenkins. But it's playoff time, and the main man is Crabtree, deservedly and as expected.
"I'm really focused on these playoffs, you know, with how bad I did last year," Crabtree said after last Sunday's regular-season finale, while on the podium with Kaepernick.
"In my opinion, I feel like I didn't do what I was supposed to do. Feel like I get another chance."
After the Giants' loss last January, Crabtree said that he just wanted a chance to make plays and that he didn't get the opportunities in that game.
That was taken as a reference to Alex Smith's decision-making, which Crabtree has never really denied. He volunteered a reference to that topic again Wednesday.
"We were just talking about opportunity and I said something about that after the game last year and I meant it, you know?" Crabtree said.
"Because 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."
It has been, especially at the end, a Michael Crabtree kind of year. He has been healthy, he has been productive, and he has been happy.
Now the 49ers are in the playoffs and, if he keeps this up, Crabtree could follow Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens into the franchise's playoff pantheon.
But you have to win -- and be great doing it -- to get to that place. I'm pretty sure Crabtree has always assumed he would.