Before this season, former 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss said quarterback Colin Kaepernick and tight end Vernon Davis never really developed a “rapport” during the 2012 season.
Though Kaepernick was electric as the team’s new quarterback on a team that went to the Super Bowl, Moss said the second-year pro and Davis just didn’t click the same way Alex Smith and Davis had clicked.
Upon hearing Moss’s opinion, Davis disagreed and said results in 2013 would show their strong connection.
“I feel me and Colin are on a different level than where we were last year,” Davis said in September.
Six games into the 2013 season, that’s apparent.
On Sunday, Kaepernick connected with his veteran tight end eight times for 180 yards and two touchdowns as the 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park, 32-20. It was San Francisco’s third straight victory and improves its record to 4-2 to stay a game behind Seattle (5-1) in the NFC West.
With the 49ers holding just an 8-7 lead in the second quarter, Kaepernick avoided the oncoming rush on a first-and-10 play from his own 39, rolled to his left and heaved the ball deep downfield, hitting Davis in stride for a 61-yard TD play to put the 49ers up 15-7.
Then, just before halftime and in answer to a Cardinals TD, Kaepernick hit Davis again on a go route straight upfield for a 35-yard TD to give San Francisco a 22-15 halftime advantage.
For the season, Davis now has 22 receptions for 404 yards – a whopping 18.3 yards per catch average – and six touchdowns.
Yet Sunday’s victory wasn’t all about the Kaepernick-to-Davis connection.
For the third straight game, the 49ers were able to pound the ball on the ground and the San Francisco defense came up with big stops and four take-aways (two fumble recoveries and interceptions by Carlos Rogers and Eric Reid).
Frank Gore rushed 25 times for 101 yards – his fourth straight game with 80 or more yards rushing after picking up just 60 yards total in his first two games – and San Francisco rushed for 149 yards total on 38 tries.
Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Corey Lemonier, getting a chance to play with Aldon Smith out, came up with his first career NFL sack in the second quarter, taking down Arizona quarterbacker Carson Palmer for a safety.
Then, on the Cardinals’ second play after the 49ers went up 29-20 in the fourth quarter on a methodical 18-play, 89-yard drive that ate up 9:32 of the clock, Lemonier stripped the ball from Cardinals running back Alfonso Smith, with NaVorro Bowman recovering. That led to Phil Dawson’s 44-yard field goal to put the 49ers up 32-20, sealing the outcome with 1:16 remaining in the game.
It was on the 89-yard, 18-play drive that San Francisco’s back-to-the-future offense – with a re-emphasis on the power running game -- was most apparent. Gore carried the ball seven times on the drive for 40 yards, including five straight plays, moving the ball from the Cardinals 31 to the 9. Bruce Miller then blasted 3 yards to set up Kendall Hunter’s 6-yard TD run.
Kaepernick also contributed 18 yards rushing on four carries, and was 16-of-29 passing for 252 yards.
Now with a three-game winning streak, the 49ers will travel to Tennessee next Sunday to play the Titans, who lost to Seattle Sunday 20-13 to fall to 3-3.