Conventional wisdom says if you want to stop the 49ers, you focus on stopping Frank Gore. That’s no less true now than it’s ever been, but if containing Gore is priority No. 1, blanketing Vernon Davis is No. 1a. Receiving plenty of defensive attention is nothing new for Davis either, but sometimes even he’s surprised with how many players are tasked with making sure he does no damage.
“I see some things differently they’re trying to do. They did some of the same things last year. They would have a guy on top of me, then a safety back, off about 12 yards. Doubling me,” Davis said.
“Sometimes they’ll have like three guys (covering me). I look up, and I’m like, ‘Wow, three guys? Are you serious?’ But it comes with the territory.”
The “territory” is the same negative storyline that has followed this team since May: Davis is the team’s only deep threat.
Kaepernick is 9-for-15 for 317 yards, five touchdowns and an interception when targeting Davis on passes of 20+ yards. On his deep throws to every other receiver (yes, including Anquan Boldin), Kaepernick is 4-for-23 with 117 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
Since Davis went off against the Cardinals with eight receptions, 180 yards and two scores, teams have mostly held him in check over the last four games: 12 catches, 149 yards and two touchdowns. Davis’ only catch went for two yards and a concussion against Carolina. In New Orleans, Davis was able to find an opening on his 17-yard touchdown catch, but his other three catches went for a total of 16 yards.
“Not different,” said Kaepernick when asked how the Saints defended Davis. “They just gave him looks that weren’t going to allow him to get down the field.”
With Mario Manningham’s slow start, the 49ers are forced to hope that Michael Crabtree’s eventual return — he reportedly practiced some today after an individual workout session — forces teams to take at least one person away from the tight end who leads the 49ers in touchdowns with eight.
In the meantime, Davis sounds very optimistic that the 49ers can figure out how to get the big play element back into their offense, as long as they remain cohesive and avoid finger-pointing.
“We need to stay together as a team. The offensive coordinator, Kap, the wide receivers, we need to just continue to gel together,” Davis said.
That could be easier against Washington, who allows the most passing yards per attempt of any team in the NFL and currently ranks last in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus.