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49ers begin season with big hopes for receivers

  • The arrival of Randy Moss, above, and Mario Manningham gives Alex Smith and the 49ers' offense the ability to throw the deep pass. (DAVID J. PHILLIP / Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA — Randy Moss still carries himself with that same old swagger and avoids saying much about his NFL return after a year away. Mario Manningham has no qualms speaking out about how he wants to show the West Coast what he can do seven months after leading the New York Giants to a Super Bowl title.

The San Francisco 49ers are depending on this talented twosome for an upgraded receiving corps in 2012. As close as the Niners came to the Super Bowl last season, their wide receivers faltered when it mattered most.

The last time San Francisco played in late January, the wideouts managed one catch for 3 yards in a 20-17 overtime loss to Manningham and the Giants in the NFC championship.

Now, there are bigger expectations on quarterback Alex Smith to throw deep. He will get his first chance in the season opener Sunday at Green Bay.

"When you add some weapons to the mix like Manningham and Moss, you can open it up more," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. "On paper they look a little better."

Smith realizes the questions about Moss could be an advantage, perhaps providing some mystery or element of surprise. Yet the 35-year-old Moss has had his share of memorable days at Lambeau Field.

It was after his antics in Green Bay during the 2004 playoffs for the Vikings that got Moss fined for $10,000. He pretended to pull down his pants and moon the Wisconsin Cheeseheads during Minnesota's playoff win in which he caught two TD passes.

"For sure, the unknown," Smith said of what Moss will offer on game day. "It works both ways, the unknown and what they're going to do. A guy like Randy and the unique toolset that he has creates a lot of problems. I think it gives them a lot to think about — the big-play potential, the matchup problem that he is."

Moss, who last played for New England, Minnesota and Tennessee in 2010, has 13 career regular-season touchdowns against the Packers and 15 total — eight of those at Lambeau.

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