Niners must compensate for loss of Manningham

This play ended Manningham's first season as 49er

When the regrouping 49ers return to practice Wednesday from a players' day off for Christmas, they'll do so without starting wide receiver Mario Manningham, who will miss Sunday's season finale against Arizona and any playoff games that follow after tearing knee ligaments during the team's blowout loss at Seattle. That leaves the Niners scrambling to fill a void at receiver in their passing game.

The same void the team has been trying to fill throughout December with Manningham on the shelf with a shoulder injury.

Manningham missed San Francisco's Dec. 9 game against Miami and Dec. 16 game at New England, and the Niners had mixed results compensating for his loss in the passing game despite the emergence of starting wideout Michael Crabtree as a clear No. 1 target.

Manningham's return against the Seahawks lasted barely one half before he was lost for the season.

Manningham tore up his knee during the third quarter of the 42-13 loss when he was tackled low by Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill and fumbled. Manningham was helped off the field, and tests Monday confirmed the extent of his injury.

Manningham has been a valuable complementary target in San Francisco's passing game when healthy, recording four or more receptions in seven games this season and at least two catches in all but one game in which he's played this season. The play on which he was injured was Manningham's only catch vs. Seattle and represented his only reception since recording a season-high five catches before being hurt Dec. 2 at St. Louis.

The Niners will now look to veteran Randy Moss to play an even bigger role in their offense with Manningham gone. Moss had just two receptions in each of the December games missed by Manningham, but had three catches against Seattle, matching his most in a game since catching four passes in the season opener at Green Bay.

San Francisco also will be turning to veteran Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie A.J. Jenkins for vital contributions as secondary receivers. The pair has been practically non-existent in San Francisco's passing game this year. Ginn has just two catches for 1 yard this season, and Jenkins – who has appeared in just two games this season and was inactive for the 11th time this year against the Seahawks – still is looking for his first NFL reception.

The 49ers also could look to promote receivers Ricardo Lockette or Chad Hall from the practice squad this week to give them another receiver on the roster.

The Niners also figure to look more toward their tight ends, who have been used sporadically this season. Starter Vernon Davis, who suffered a mild concussion after being walloped by Seattle safety Kam Chancellor late in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the game, is expected to be able to play against Arizona.

Backups Delanie Walker and rookie Garrett Celek also could find increased roles. Celek had career-high totals of two receptions for 41 yards against the Seahawks.

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