Vernon Davis was the forgotten man, a Pro Bowl-quality tight end who had become an afterthought.
In the 49ers’ first two games this season, Davis often was used more as an extra blocker than as a primary receiver, catching just seven total balls for 65 yards.
Though Davis hoped for more pass-catching opportunities, it wasn’t just his own lack of productivity that had him concerned. He also saw that San Francisco had amassed just 415 yards of offense in going 1-1 vs. the Seahawks and Cowboys.
So, after the overtime loss to Dallas in Week 2, Davis decided to become proactive and had a sit-down with head coach Jim Harbaugh.
His message? Get more people involved. Let playmakers play. Look for ways to get the ball into the hands of difference-makers.
In Sunday’s 13-8 win over the Bengals, Davis was one of those playmakers.
Davis, who in past seasons has been Alex Smith’s favorite receiver, had eight catches for 114 yards, accounting for more than half of the team’s 226 yards in total offense.
According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, his catch and yardage totals were the second-highest of his career.
When the 49ers put together a long scoring drive in the fourth quarter to take the lead, Smith connected three times with Davis.
“I just wanted to get everybody involved,” Davis told the Chronicle of his meeting with Harbaugh earlier in the week. “All the guys we have that can make plays. Not just me, but everybody. If I said me, it would be selfish. And I’m not a selfish person. But I just play my role. I do whatever I’m asked to do, whether it’s protecting, blocking or whatever.”
In his sixth NFL season, Davis has had some big years. In 2009, when he was selected to the Pro Bowl, he had 78 catches for 965 yards and 13 TDs. Last season, he had 58 catches, averaging 16.3 yards per reception.
After Sunday’s game, he said his role vs. the Bengals was simply “stepping up” to do whatever was needed, either catching or blocking.
“Once we got going, it was all good,” he said. “We made plays.”